Cape Town – Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana says government is reviewing the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) Act with the aim of improving the scheme to support students from poor backgrounds.
The Deputy Minister said this to delegates of the 2015 Financial Aid Conference at the Cape Sun Southern Sun hotel on Monday in a speech read by the department’s Pearl Whittle in his absentia.
He said while government’s aim was to provide fee-free education for the poor through the NSFAS loan and bursary scheme, the reality was that there were insufficient funds to support all needy and deserving students.
“A policy dialogue on student financial aid involving the Department of Higher and Education Training, NSFAS, Higher Education South Africa, the South African Students Union, the Council on Higher Education, National Treasury, the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation and the Chairpersons of Council has therefore been constituted.
“This will inform the development of improved policy and regulations to govern the NSFAS, especially the development of a sustainable process for allocating the limited funds available for poor students to access higher education,” he said.
The Deputy Minister said this as the department announced during its Budget Vote that NSFAS had a budget of R9.5 billion that has been allocated in bursaries and student loans for the 2015/16 financial year.
Ever since its inception in 1991, NSFAS – which was previously known as the Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa (TEFSA), has awarded approximately R50 billion in loans and bursaries to about 1.5 million students.
The NSFAS budget is aimed to provide 205 000 university student loans and bursaries and 200 000 TVET college bursaries during the current financial year.
The Deputy Minister said that the National Development Plan (NDP) proposes that all students who qualify for NSFAS are provided with access to full funding through loans and bursaries to cover the costs of tuition, books, accommodation and other living expenses.
He said the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training, which Minister Blade Nzimande released last year, makes a commitment to progressively introduce free education for the poor in South Africa.
“The outcomes and recommendations from the policy dialogue will feed into a review of the NSFAS Act which is planned to be completed by March 2017,” he said.
The Deputy Minister also said that while the department, together with NSFAS, would continue to lobby for additional funding, he called on fund managers attending the conference to ensure that all monies from the department and donors are effectively administered.
“The department has found evidence of corruption in the application of NSFAS loans and bursaries within the system.
“Given the limited financial resources and the demand for financial aid from poor and needy students of the opportunity to further studies, but also threatens the stability of the entire higher education and training sector,” he said.