- The number of students seeking financial aid is growing and so is their debt.
- Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has revealed students owe NSFAS R5.3 billion.
- Among those are some who submitted fraudulent applications.
Students owe the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) R5.3 billion, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has revealed.
Nzimande said student debt was growing in the university sector.
"Audited accumulated gross student debt as of 31 December 2020 was R16.5 million. The amount included students who have exited universities.
"A survey conducted by the department in 2021 showed that an estimated 56.2% of students with debt owe less than R10 000. About 32.9% [of them] owe between R10 000 and R50 000, and 10.9% owe more than R50 000.
"The survey also showed that NSFAS students owe R5.3 billion."
Nzimande added the government had contributed R1.7 billion to NSFAS.
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He said NSFAS received 906 429 applications for the 2022 academic year.
The department promised to fund all qualifying students through its bursary scheme.
Nzimande also raised concerns about students defrauding NSFAS, saying some failed to disclose improvements in their household income.
Others also failed to disclose their new funders or knowingly submitted false information.
"… NSFAS has established that it continues funding 38 744 students even though they had substantial improvement in their household income.
"Of these students, 32 654 have a household income that exceeds R400 000. Our analysis further shows that 7 081 have a household income exceeding R1 million.
"About 632 students have a household income exceeding R2 million. These students will be defunded."
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He said NSFAS must open fraud charges in such instances and implicated students might be allowed to appeal.
"NSFAS reserves the right to litigate and recover funds where instances of clear defrauding of the system have been identified."
Meanwhile, the projected 2022 enrolment in public universities is estimated at more than 1.1 million students.
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