Pay Back the Money- gainfuly employed NSFAS beneficiaries

2015-11-12 10:27

Not one to be caught up in waves/movements which happen within society without asking ‘Why?’ the recent discussions around the Fees Must Fall made me start digging a bit further into the current goings on in the Education funding landscape.

Amidst all the calls for fees to fall and for government to increase contributions to the tertiary sector, one aspect not being given much attention is the refinancing of NSFAS by past students. This infographic of a recent survey is quite telling. All past students who have received assistance from NSFAS and are gainfully employed must pay back the money which helped them go through tertiary. A few weeks back I was listening to SAFM and someone suggested that NSFAS works alongside SARS in order to follow up those past recipients.

“One of the challenges for NSFAS has been to collect money from its debtors owing to various reasons. In the 2014/15 financial year, recoveries declined to R247.5 million in 2015 from R338.8 million in 2014. The Board has put strategies in place in collaboration with other entities to recover money from debtors who are gainfully employed and can give positive consent for deductions from their payroll or make other acceptable arrangements. The repayment of loans can go a long way to assist existing students in the system. Irrecoverable debt of a total of 11 700 debtors who are reported to be deceased over the life of the entity amount to R285.6 million - and this is written off” (Annual Report 2014/15, pg 18)   2012 689.4 million  2013 712.8 million

Some students are talking about being indebted when they finish university because of NSFAS but my question to that is, “Do they expect for the money to be written off? Who do they expect to pay the money?” The indebtedness which is being spoken about is in part due to the failure by the student(s) to perform well in their studies.

According to NSFAS

  • Depending on your results, up to 40% of your NSFAS study loan may be converted into a bursary and you do not need to repay that amount.
  • Students in their final year of study, who will qualify to graduate at the end of the year, are eligible to be funded through the Final Year Programme. This is a special funding programme which was launched by the President in 2011. If you graduate in your final year, the loan is converted to a 100% bursary. Students can only benefit from the Final Year Programme once.

NSFAS’ mission statement is, “…[be] an efficient and effective provider of financial aid to students from poor and working class families in a sustainable manner that promotes access to, and success in, higher and further education and training in pursuit of South Africa’s national and human resource development goals.”

The funding NSFAS provides does promote access to higher and further education and training, question is whether they have been capacitated to promote success of these students. Failure to deal with this second leg is the major reason for the wobbly structure that is NSFAS today. I therefore think this must be one of the major areas to focus on, the need for students to be given the necessary support to ensure they are able to make it through university successfully.

I close with the words of David Dickinson from Wits, “Many of the students entering South African universities are bright but underprepared by schools in townships and rural areas. This compounds the problem of inadequate funding by imposing a burden on already stretched academic resources. It also limits students’ abilities to raise funds by working part time. When you are struggling to pass demanding courses, working to make ends meet will tip the balance and result in academic failure.

Students from the new black middle class may be better prepared having come out of private or well-resourced public schools. But their families are juggling competing demands on their resources with limited intergenerational transfer of resources that established middle classes can utilise. Such first generation middle-class families are often supporting a range of other relatives in extended African families.”

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