NSFAS To Make Policy Changes For The New Year

A number of changes are expected to be implemented by NSFAS for the 2023 academic year. These changes will affect both the financial aid scheme and the students it funds.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is bringing in changes to its system, rules and regulations, but with a particular focus on its policy.

Although NSFAS has indicated an increase in the number of students who have applied for and qualified for funding, in both universities and colleges, there are also a number of potential challenges that could play out during the new year.

NSFAS has projected a 7% increase in the number of students qualifying for NSFAS bursaries.

However, the financial aid provider has noted that the issue still lies with accurately projecting the costs needed to fund students enrolled in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges, but the increase in qualifying students will be covered in the allocated budget.

Earlier this year, NSFAS approved draft guidelines for the 2023 academic year, which will be submitted to the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande for approval.

These draft guidelines, if approved, will impact students and how the bursary funds are managed.

The rise in the cost of living as a result of inflation has meant that for 2023, the allowances students receive will change.

R6000 per annum in total will be introduced in 2023 and disbursed (on a monthly basis) as a living allowance to students enrolled at Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges, within the budget allocated for TVET Colleges.

Students funded by NSFAS generally need to ensure that they pass all their modules/classes while studying, as part of the terms and conditions of keeping their bursaries. “In 2023, it was proposed that students pass 50% of their courses as per the course pass rate table introduced in the policy,” stated NSFAS.

Consultations to determine the 2023 pass rate for NSFAS students were held with the university branch of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Universities South Africa (USAf), South African University Framework (SAUF) and Deputy Vice-Chancellors (DVCs) of universities.

The 2023 university academic eligibility requirements will be implemented as follows:

  1. First time entering students must achieve 50% of their registered course credits in order to gain funding from NSFAS in the next academic term.
  2. Continuing and returning students must achieve 55% of their registered course credits in order to continue to be funded by NSFAS for the next academic term.

The Department of Higher Education wants to ensure that funded students have access to suitable accommodation while they are studying. Accommodation providers can now prove that their accommodation is worth the money being paid by the Department, though the introduction of a new student accommodation portal.

NSFAS provides an accommodation allowance to funded students, ensuring that students can live closer to the institution they are enrolled at.

In the 2023 Draft Policy, NSFAS expressed the intention to “centralise accreditation of private accommodation.” The proposal was brought forward to grade and determine the value and costs of the listed student accommodation in order to enforce compliance to the Minimum Norms and Standards.

The need for accommodation by students has also resulted in the creation and establishment of new accommodation facilities. However, not all of these accommodation facilities are conducive to studying and may not be appropriate for students to reside in.

Student accommodation has been one of the many complaints students have voiced over the years, as the facilities are often sub-par and unsafe.

In an effort to ensure students have accommodation that is conducive to learning, NSFAS launched the portal which allows accommodation providers to be considered for NSFAS funded students; students will also be able to use the portal to log any queries or complaints related to their allocated accommodation, such as maintenance requests and relocation requests. This process will apply to both privately and institution-owned accommodation.

Accommodation providers can now register and load their accommodation facilities on the NSFAS student accommodation portal to be considered as a housing option for NSFAS beneficiaries.

Lastly, the financial aid entity also proposed direct payments to beneficiaries, to avoid the continuing problem of late payments made by institutions, which has often resulted in many unrests from frustrated students.

NSFAS is hoping for a “hassle-free and delay-free” academic year.

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