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NSFAS to pilot new funding model in 2017

By Danielle van Wyk

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has answered the calls for “free education” by irate protesting students and has announced a pilot project for 2017. This project is set to address the financial struggles of both the NSFAS criteria students and the “missing middle” students, by making use of student grants and loans.

“Actuaries are working on a threshold where ‘free stops’, and it could be between household incomes of R150, 000 and R200, 000. From there, a combination of a grant and a loan would apply for households with a household income of R600, 0000,” said Sizwe Nxasana, NSFAS chairman,  to BD Live.  

The new model will be piloted at six universities and one college nationwide next year, but will only be fully implemented in 2018.

NSFAS leadership in understanding the need for such an initiative also expressed their concern that the current protests will lead to them being unable to pilot their project next year.

“Amongst other things, the model will allow students who want to study at public universities and TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges to apply directly online through the NSFAS website,” stated NSFAS.

Students who want to apply will need to create a profile on their website and proceed to complete their application, update their details, and also monitor their application status.

The model is also being built to cater to the financial needs of those who fall within the “missing middle” - those who have been found to be too rich for NSFAS funding but too poor to afford the fees. It’s a group which NSFAS previously overlooked, according to commentators. In doing so they have set out certain household income brackets and allocated funding to students who would fall into those brackets.

Concerns have been raised about where the government, NSFAS included, would find the money to as per the fee announcement to subsidise the increase for both NSFAS and “missing middle” students. But NSFAS remain confident that provision will be made.

Another issue that NSFAS leadership are reportedly looking to address is the high dropout rate among their students. According to NSFAS data, they experience a dropout rate as high as 63%, due to various factors from both the individual and the funding model. Underfunding has been known to be one such factor.

“Allowances for food, accommodation, books and travel will be disbursed through sBux which is a cell phone banking solution implemented by NSFAS to distribute funds to accepted NSFAS beneficiaries. NSFAS is striving to create and maintain relationships with students from the time they start their courses until completion of their studies,” stated the financial aid scheme.

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