Free? Education

2016-11-05 14:23

Many good things are happening to help students get free education; or at least lots of help to pay for their studies. Things like:

Announcements from NSFAS (the National Student Financial Aid Scheme) about improving access for students.

The NYDA (National Youth Development Agency) partnering with NSFAS to help more students apply.

The Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr GF Qonde, announcing that NSFAS qualifying students will not pay any registration or upfront fees for University studies in 2017. Mr Qonde also announced that in 2017, students from households earning less than R6000 per year, will have their registration or upfront fees covered by government.

Billions more allocated to NSFAS.

The first hurdle - access to NSFAS application forms

One of the first problems students from rural areas, as well as poor students face, is when they have to apply online. They don't necessarily have access to computers or the internet.

To help with this, the Department of Social Development is assisting NSFAS with distributing printed application forms at 263 community centers country wide. This is done through the ISIBINDI Centers. There will also be trained agents at these centers to help prospective students complete their printed or online applications.

NSFAS has also partnered with the Vodacom Foundation to provide access to the 81 Vodacom ICT Training centers countrywide - for learners to apply online for NSFAS funding for 2017. Students can access computers and internet connection at any one of these 81 centres.

NYDA partnership with NSFAS

The NYDA (National Youth Development Agency) will help prospective students apply for NSFAS funding at all of their community youth development centers. This includes making available printed NSFAS application forms for rural students and students who do not have access to the online application processes.

The second hurdle - registration fees

Once students have successfully applied and been accepted for studies, the next hurdle is the need for registration fees or upfront fees from universities and TVET colleges. Students who need funding often don't have access to the kind of money charged as a registration fee.

In 2017, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), will pay the registration fees for all NSFAS funded students. This will be paid to universities in January 2017. This means that NSFAS students will not pay any registration or upfront fees.

Helping the "missing middle"

This year government has committed to finding ways to help the missing middle. As I wrote here, I think that the "rich" students are actually less than 10% of students. According to this article, the "rich" students might be less than 5% of students. So when we add up the missing middle, and the poor (those who have been getting funding from bodies like NSFAS all along), then in 2017 government will help fund the studies of 95% of students.

The missing middle students will have their upfront or registration fees covered by funding from government. This means they can register for 2017 without paying any upfront or registration fees.

Historic Debt Students

Missing middle students who have historic student debt will be allowed to register in 2017. So students at universities and TVET Colleges can no longer be turned away because of historic debt.

All NSFAS qualifying students who were registered in 2016 and meet the academic progression requirements, must register for 2017. These students will be financially supported by NSFAS through their funding for continuing students. This is according to the Director-General of Department of Higher Education and Training, here.

Turning loans into Bursaries

NSFAS turns 40% of the loans they give each year into bursaries. This applies to students who pass. These students can get a 100% bursary during their final year of study, provided that they graduate.

Currently 70% of NSFAS monies are bursaries... not loans. So the majority of money allocated to NSFAS goes to students to fund their studies, without requiring them to pay the money back.

Billions more to NSFAS

In his medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) in October, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, announced that government would add R9 billion to the R16 billion already allocated to NSFAS to fund tertiary education.

Apply before 30 November 2017

The closing date for applications to NSFAS is 30 November. Applicants will be informed of the results via SMS or email, after the closing date.

Apply here.

So... Free Education?

Maybe not free yet. But with:

possibly 95% of students in 2017 being able to register at Universities and TVET Colleges without making any payment on the day they register; and,

"historic debt" no longer used to refuse student registrations; and,

70% of NSFAS monies paid out as bursaries and not loans; and,

students who are on NSFAS loans being able to get those loans converted to bursaries if they pass every year on time; then,

Things have certainly improved for students in South Africa.

About the Author:

Jan Badenhorst works as the CEO of Skills Academy. Skills Academy offers Home Study Courses to people who never completed Matric, or who cannot get entry into Universities.

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