NSFAS in tight race to pay outstanding fees

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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says it is in discussions with the Department of Higher Education and Training to make additional funding available urgently to help the scheme support students who still have outstanding fees.

According to university policy, students cannot register in the new year until their debt has been settled. As a result, many students with outstanding accounts have been barred from registering in 2014.

This has led to protests at 10 universities across the country against the scheme.

“Even though our budget has increased dramatically from R3.1 billion in 2009 to R8.3 billion in 2013, this is still not enough to keep pace with the number of students who need assistance to attend college or university. The shortage of funds for all eligible students at universities last year was R2.6 billion,” said NSFAS CEO Msulwa Daca.

Daca said the 2014 budget will be over R9 billion for more than 430 000 students at all 25 public universities and 50 public FET colleges. However, Daca said this was still not enough.

“The rise in tuition and other fees, which is decided by each university, causes further problems in a context where funds are limited. Even with a budget of over R9 billion this year, we will still be able to help only one out of every two students who apply for funding,” he said.

NSFAS receives its budget in April each year and pays out funds to universities and colleges up until the end of the financial year on 31 March.

In 2013, the budget was R8.315 billion, of which NSFAS had already paid out R7.4 billion by January 2014.

This is the single biggest amount of funding NSFAS has ever made by January of any year in its history.

Daca hoped that the scheme will finalise all payments by the second week of February, well ahead of the March deadline.

“University and college students should not have a problem registering for 2014 because of unpaid fees,” he said in a statement.

Daca said they have already made an advance payment for 2014 to all FET colleges to the value of 10 percent of their annual allocation.

“We are waiting for requests from universities for a similar advance payment, which we make every year.”

NSFAS provides funding only to those students who have a course pass rate of at least 50 percent.

The maximum amount NSFAS will provide in 2014, according to Daca, is R64 000 per student to cover tuition and residence fees, books and travel to and from campus.

“We simply do not have enough money to continue funding students who get below 50 percent,” he reiterated. –SAnews.gov.za