Students owe national aid scheme billions of rands

2010-02-03 10:24

MORE than 100 000 students who have received loans from the

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), are unable or unwilling to pay

the money back, amounting to billions of rand worth of debt.

In a presentation to the Higher Education and Training Portfolio

Committee in Parliament yesterday, Director General Mary Metcalfe said the money

was mostly owed by students who had dropped out of universities or colleges, or

who had graduated but were either unemployed or unwilling to pay back their


Students who had graduated were only expected to start repaying

their loan once they were earning a minimum of R30 000 per annum.

It has emerged that about 530 000 university students had received

loans from the NSFAS since its inception 20 years ago, but about 20% of them had

never made a single repayment, amounting to approximately R2 billion of unpaid


The amount of debt owed did not include students currently


A further 71 431 students at Further Education and Training (FET)

colleges had received R600 million in loans over the last three years, but it

was not clear how much of them had graduated and started repaying their loan;

how many had dropped out; or how many graduates had started on their


NSFAS spokesperson Bonny Feldman said they acknowledged there were

“many factors” which made it difficult for dropouts or graduates to repay their

loan, chief among these was unemployment.

“It is the responsibility of the debtor to advise the NSFAS

regularly on their employment status,” said Feldman.

She said payment could be made through direct deposit instalments

or could be deducted monthly from the employer’s payroll.

Meanwhile, some students interviewed said even though they had

graduated and were employed, they did not intend paying back their student

loans, while others said they would like to, but had no job and no income.

Unathi Phithi (36), graduated from the University of the Western

Cape in 2004, and is earning “a good salary”.

But Phithi said she had not made arrangements with the NSFAS and

ignores letters from the scheme and has no intention of repaying her loan. She

said when the NSFAS started debiting money from her bank account, she closed the

account and opened a different one. “I am already in debt with other accounts

and adding the scheme (to my debt payments) would bring more problems.”

Paying back his loan is something Phumlani Sibevu (38) would love

to do.

Sibevu said he dropped out of the Cape Peninsula University of

Technology in 2007 and besides a stint as a labourer on a construction site, he

has been unemployed.

He said NSFAS regularly sent him letters of demand for repayment of

the R30 000 loan he’d taken, of which he’d managed to pay back R2 500.

“I would like to work and pay my debt because it is my

responsibility to repay the loan, but with the current situation (being

unemployed) I am unable to do so.” he said.

“Once I get a proper job I will let them know and pay them,” he


– West Cape News


Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.