One can only wonder about the timing of the announcement by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande that applications for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will open next week since the process usually starts much earlier. .
Skeptics might find it interesting that nominations open on Tuesday, November 2 – just a day after students and prospective students have had a chance to vote in local elections.
Nzimande also promised that the late start of the application process will not have a detrimental effect on new students who wish to start their studies at a university or higher education institution next year, or on returning students. who will continue their studies.
“I want to assure everyone that this will in no way disadvantage those who seek NSFAS support for their studies,” he said.
Returning students may not agree 100% with Nzimande as they have experience in running the program – and wait until late in the year to receive the financial support many need to return their studies. possible studies.
In summary, many students from “working-class and poor families” to whom Nzimande referred several times during his speech, are totally dependent on the government apparatus for studying.
For the poor, this includes money to pay the initial registration fees, buy books and stationery, pay for accommodation and buy food from day one in a foreign city and in a whole new environment.
The application process usually begins in September of the year preceding the relevant academic year. In a normal year, the NSFAS money might not arrive until July. It is often later.
In the meantime, universities are expected to pay for tuition and even accommodation and food.
Nzimande preferred to bet on the positive.
“The program has made a difference for the working class and poor students,” he said, citing figures that show how it has grown in the few years since it moved from the previous based program. on loans to that of a “scholarship” that offers higher education without expecting students to repay the cost.
Perhaps the idea is that graduates will get good jobs and pay more taxes for the rest of their working lives so that future generations can study “for free”.
More students, more money
NSFAS has grown rapidly since former President Jacob Zuma unexpectedly announced free higher education for the poor in December 2017.
Nzimande said the program has given thousands of students the opportunity to study.
“NSFAS funding has increased from R20 billion in 2018 to R40 billion – even more – in 2021,” the minister said. The actual figure is around 42 billion rand.
The number of students receiving funding has risen sharply, with Nzimande citing a figure of over 752,000 currently receiving NSFAS funding.
The NSFAS 2021 Program Funding Status Report shows that as of June 2021, the number of students in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) universities and colleges receiving government funding was 623 386.
These are 382,982 new applications – mainly first year students – and 240,404 continuing students.
“NSFAS can confirm that it has so far paid stipends to a total of 623,386 students according to data submitted by institutions. This number represents at least 48% of the total number of eligible students, ”the report said.
Less popular TVET colleges
Most of the students were enrolled in universities. Figures show that only a total of around 202,000 NSFAS first-year and continuing education students were enrolled in TVET colleges.
The largest number of NSFAS students were enrolled at the University of South Africa (Unisa), also South Africa’s largest university in student numbers. Almost 156,000 Unisa students received NSFAS funding at the end of June 2021.
Durban University of Technology had 21,321 NSFAS students, the Free State University had 21,794, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal 22,843. Among the larger universities, Nelson Mandela University only hosted as 15,394 NSFAS students, while students at the University of Stellenbosch appear to prefer to pay their own fees with only 3,826 having received taxpayer support as of the report date.
The report includes an interesting table on how much each university received from NSFAS in 2021. Considering that some disbursements would have followed after the report date,
Unisa tops the list again with more than R 1.8 billion in NSFAS payments made to the institution.
The Free State University received just over one billion rand, as did the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The University of Stellenbosch received only Rand 241 million and the smaller University of Rhodes some Rand 197 million.
Respond to the request
But money is still scarce in government departments – and nearly 700,000 learners are currently taking matrix exams, many of whom have hopes and dreams of going to college.
Regarding the 2021 academic year, the NSFAS Funding Report noted: “Despite the many challenges faced at the start of the 2021 academic year due to the higher demand for NSFAS funding and the need to ensure the adequacy of the budget before finalizing the allocations, the Department of Higher Education The education response has closed the projected shortfall and NSFAS believes that all students who deserve funding from the NSFAS will be funded. ”
Hopefully, they complete all of their studies within the NSFAS deadline of N + 1, referring to the government’s ability and willingness to pay for the normal duration of the course and an additional year if things don’t go as well as planned.
More importantly, the taxpayers who foot the bill hope that graduates find jobs after graduation and start contributing to the economy and tax.