APPLICATIONS for student loans for 2019 have officially opened. Tens of thousands of prospective students are set to start applying through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Students have been urged to sign outstanding bursary agreements to ensure the process runs smoothly. At the same time, NSFAS has cleared a massive payment backlog after a R1,2 billion payment. Work on clearing the backlog started about two weeks back, after the appointment of administrator Randall Carolissen. Online applications were opened on Monday following last week’s announcement that funding backlogs from 2017 and 2018 are being cleared.NSFAS officials will be at university finance offices and National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) offices across the country. NYDA websites were opened on Monday with hard-copy submission systems set to be fully functional in two weeks. NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo said: “We are anticipating applications to start flowing. “Last year, we experienced a high volume of applications from the first day that we opened. We are expecting 5 000 to 6 000 users per minute.” Mamabolo said the online systems will run smoothly. “We have done all the check levels and feel confident that every person who needs financial assistance will be able to get assistance from our website.” He said technical staff are on standby to assist students applying for 2019 academic funding. “We have the technical team on standby, ensuring that it is all systems go.“Also, we are deploying a team of officials to the universities and the NYDA offices to be able to assist the students.” Students are urged to ensure they have the correct documentation at hand when making their applications.