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Collaborative Efforts Urged to Address Challenges Facing Students in NSFAS Scheme

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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has recently urged institutions of higher learning and student leadership to collaborate and offer constructive inputs on how to tackle the issues plaguing students.

During a media briefing held on Monday, the executive management of NSFAS provided an update on the current state of affairs for the 2023 academic year.

Ernest Khosa, the Chairperson of the NSFAS Board, highlighted that blame for recent events should not solely be laid on the scheme itself. He emphasized the role of universities in contributing to the challenges faced, particularly in terms of non-compliance with submitting registration data. Late or incorrect submissions of registration data hinder NSFAS from paying students whose registration has not been confirmed.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) Chairperson, Ernest Khosa

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) Chairperson, Ernest Khosa

To resolve this, Khosa reiterated the importance of institutions adhering to the NSFAS policy, which requires them to send updated registration data monthly. Any erroneous payments made to students who have dropped out or are not attending classes can be attributed to institutions’ failure to inform NSFAS through this process.

Khosa emphasized the commitment of NSFAS to maintain a collaborative relationship with higher education institutions and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

According to recent data, a total of R608 601 526 has been disbursed to NSFAS qualifying beneficiaries at public universities, while R383 671 046 has been paid to TVET colleges for the month of August alone. Of the paid students, 86% (355,270 students) have successfully authenticated themselves and received their allowances. The remaining students who were paid but could not access their funds due to incomplete authentication are currently being reviewed and assessed by NSFAS.

In response to connectivity issues faced by some students during the authentication process, NSFAS has deployed teams to campuses to facilitate their authentication and verification. Additionally, technical glitches caused by high internet traffic during peak registration periods are being addressed.

While acknowledging that the introduction of new systems inevitably leads to initial challenges, Khosa recognized genuine cases where students faced difficulties in accessing their allowances due to system glitches and issues with data integration. To address these issues, NSFAS has collaborated with institutions such as the South African State Security Agency, the South African Revenue Service (SARS), and the Department of Home Affairs to verify the information provided during the application stage. These partnerships have helped NSFAS make more informed decisions and identified cases where outdated or inaccurate information was received through third-party sources.

Following thorough investigations, 45,927 students were defunded after it was discovered that they did not meet the funding criteria. Improved relationships with third-party data sources, including SARS, resulted in the re-evaluation of some applications that had been initially approved for funding. This re-evaluation revealed instances of falsified or fraudulent documents, leading to immediate defunding. Maintaining funding for ineligible individuals would go against the provisions of the funding policy, ultimately depriving deserving students of financial assistance.

As a result of the re-evaluation, funding was reinstated for 14,703 students, while 31,224 remained unsuccessful. Students with a household income exceeding 350,000 and returning students who did not meet the required academic progression accounted for the majority of unsuccessful applicants. The N+ rule, which determines the number of years students receive funding for a qualification, currently allows for a minimum of N years plus an additional two years (N+2).


 

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