11% of students won’t pay back govt loan - News24 survey results

2015-11-06 09:02
A protester holds up a placard indicating his opinion on NSFAS during an EFF march in Johannesburg. (EWN, Twitter)

A protester holds up a placard indicating his opinion on NSFAS during an EFF march in Johannesburg. (EWN, Twitter)

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Cape Town - We asked News24 users to have their say on the government’s National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and how it currently operates. Your answers produced some interesting results...

With #FeesMustFall dominating headlines over the past two weeks, and the government’s funding crisis continuing unanswered, News24 ran a survey asking people to provide feedback on the national student funding scheme.

1 103 people in our News24 family responded to our 12 survey questions.

These are the results:

- The majority of respondents, 38.2%, were students or family members of students hailing from Gauteng. 26.2% of respondents were studying in the Western Cape, while 9.9% were based in KwaZulu-Natal.

- There was an even split between those who were successful in their application and those who were not. 48.6% (495 in total) were granted funds based on the NSFAS means test.

- The gender split was 54.7% male and 45.3% female.

- By race, 68.5% of the respondents were black; 13.8% coloured, 12.8% white and 4.6% Indian, while 0.4% were not born in South Africa.

- 10.9% of successful applicants said they had no intention of paying back the loan, while 29.2% said they would do so only if they could afford it.

- For 30.6% the largest stumbling block when applying for financial assistance had been their family’s income threshold, while 31.9% felt bureaucracy and red tape were the biggest frustrations in the process.

- Almost half (47%) of the successful candidates said they received their funds only after their respective fees deadline.

- Of those who had completed their studies, 26.3% have successfully paid back their debt in full at the time of writing, and 40.5% were still in the process.

- Lastly, of the R35.3 million that had been applied for, R15.85 million (44.9%) was granted.

Total number of respondents per province:

News24 met with NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo in Cape Town on Tuesday to unpack some of these findings.

Response to loan repayments

“I guess when you’re studying, you think it’s a lot of money and ‘I won’t be able to afford it’, but once you start working, you see you actually can," Mamabolo said.

“We can tell you there are students who paid more than R40 000 cash in the space of a year, and settled their debt completely.

“I think those who feel the sum is too big, that opinion just comes from a lack of information while they’re still studying.”

Mamabolo also suggested that the core of the decision to repay a student loan is a moral one. Universities also implements other tools, like blacklisting students, who perpetually default after a period of time.

Why funding is late

One of the biggest issues raised by News24 respondents was the release of their funds. Some blamed the universities, while others blamed NSFAS for receiving their funds well after their fees deadline.

Mamabolo said NSFAS needed the universities to submit their claims by the end of each financial quarter. If they failed to do so, the organisation’s hands were tied.

"This year the universities had had until January 15 to submit their list of students requiring only a registration fee.

“If your university does not meet that deadline, we take it none of those students [who] applied for funding required a registration fee," he said.

In other words, NSFAS doesn’t allocate a specific budget to each university.

Rather, students would apply for NSFAS funding at their respective institutions, and the onus is on the university to collect the information and then apply for claims from NSFAS.

The University of Limpopo, for instance, had 56% of students apply for NSFAS funding, while the University of Cape Town only had 11%. The budget’s were then allocated accordingly.

However, this system had been revised and a new system, whereby all applications went via NSFAS, would be implemented, having been trialled since 2014.

News24 will publish the survey respondents’ biggest problems in their own words next week, as well as NSFAS’s official response to these.

- Read more: Is race a factor when applying for a govt student loan?

Read more on:    nsfas  |  cape town  |  education  |  university fees

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