7 ways you can fund your education if you can’t pay upfront


The reason most people don’t further their education is due to a lack of funds.

Government has made it possible for people to study further by offering funding from programmes such as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme. Edu-loan specialises in funding for education, while major banks also offer student loans.



A NSFAS bursary is the money you receive to cover the costs of your studies for certain qualifications at any public university or college in South Africa.

Funza Lushaka Bursary

The programme is a multi-year programme to promote teaching as a profession. Bursaries are available to enable eligible students to complete a teaching qualification in an area of national priority. Qualified recipients of the bursary must request placement in a public school. The provincial education department (PED) will place graduate bursars in a suitable teaching post.

Bursaries to study social work

The National Department of Social Development has made a scholarship available in the field of social work. This part of an initiative to address critical skills shortages in the sector. Applications are open to current social work students and students who would like to enrol for social work, provided they are are South African citizens.

Disability Bursary Programme

The Disability Bursary Programme provides financial support to students with disabilities who need financial aid. It is intended to open opportunities in higher education and provide additional teaching and support for students to overcome learning barriers. New and continuing students may apply for this bursary.

Student loans

Almost all the big banks in the country offer financial assistance to eligible candidates to further their studies at any tertiary institutions, whether public or private. The student loan usually covers tuition fees, accommodation and textbooks.

They are granted for a specific year of study and you will have to reapply for each year of registration. There is a maximum amount granted for each year of study. A once off initiation fee and monthly service fee will be charged on your student loan.

The course and institution you choose must be accredited by at the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA), Skills Education Training Authorities (SETA), Umalusi or the Department of Higher Education and Training. Before granting you the loan, the bank would like to know how you are progressing with your studies, so they would like to see your marks and proof of registration or qualifications on a certain date.

University financial aid

If you have already registered at a university or are considering to do so, their financial aid office should be your first stop. Most universities offer bursaries or grants to students who have excelled in their previous studies or on the sports field. Check with the university’s financial aid office whether you qualify for any of these bursaries or awards and make sure you apply before the closing date, which is usually in the third quarter of the year.

External bursaries

Many local businesses, as well as provincial government departments offer bursaries to promising students. The terms of these bursaries differ tremendously. Contract bursaries require you to “pay back’ the bursary by working at the company once you’ve completed your degree, giving you a job and work experience immediately after graduation. Many mining and engineering companies, in particular, provide contract bursaries. A brochure known as the Bursary Register is published every year and includes a full list of bursaries available in your particular field. Copies are available at most high schools and university financial aid offices.


NSFAS spokeperson, Kagisho Mamabolo, says you should apply for a bursary in the third quarter of the year. He says NSFAS has improved its application process, allowing students to apply online or at National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) offices.

“We also reduced our manual application forms to two pages, which simplified the application process,” he says. Before applying for a NSFAS bursary, you should have decided which course you want to study and at which institution. When applying, have electronic and certified copies of the following:

  • Your South African ID or an unabridged birth certificate.
  •  ID copies of your parents and or guardian (or death certificate where applicable).
  •  ID copies of each person living with you in your home.
  • Pay advice or letter of employment or pension advice (not older than three months).
  • Download the consent form and fill it in with your parents' or guardian’s signatures. Applications without a consent form that is signed by all people whose incomes have been declared in the application will not be accepted and will be considered as incomplete.
  • If you are living with a disability, download the Disability Annexure A and fill it in. When you provide your cell phone number on the application form, make sure it works and please do not change it afterwards, as NSFAS will use it to communicate with you during and after the application process. Do not provide someone else’s cell phone number as your contact number. You will also need an email address. If you do not have an email address, you can easily create one.

You must not apply if: 

  • You have already applied and have an application reference number.
  • You are not intending to apply for admission to a public university or Training Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college.
  • You already have NSFAS funding for 2017.
  • You are not a South African citizen.

Student loan

To apply for a student loan, you need to be registered at an accredited tertiary institution and be studying towards a certificate, national diploma, degree or postgraduate degree or diploma. In order to be measured for a student loan, you need to provide academic results showing that you have passed your previous year of study.

Income criteria:

  • Degree and diploma: Your surety (a person who takes responsibility for another's performance during a task) should earn a minimum income of R3 000 per month.
  • Other courses: Your surety should earn a minimum of R5 000 per month.
  • Part-time students who earn R5 000 or more do not require a surety.
  • These amounts may vary from bank to bank. External bursaries Applications for external bursaries depend on the company offering the bursary. The best way is to check the links on the company’s website to see how you can apply for their bursaries.

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