During a briefing, the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande discussed a few changes to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) which will improve the application process as well as the implementation of the bursary scheme.
Before applications for the NSFAS bursary opened, a briefing was held by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande regarding the application process for the 2024 applications.
Nzimande noted the many changes which have taken place since NSFAS experienced a dramatic expansion in its scope and funding in 2008.
NSFAS was a student loan scheme before 2018 when it began providing fully subsidized funding.
The Minister believes that the bursary scheme will have an impact for many decades into the future including breaking general poverty in families around the country.
NSFAS opened its 2024 applications on 28 September 2024 and this early opening date is meant to give applicants enough time to submit applications and supporting documents.
The bursary scheme is working with national treasury, to align the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) calendar with the government funding calendar to ensure that NSFAS has reserved funds before the reopening of tertiary institutions.
Tertiary institutions such as universities and TVET colleges usually open for the new academic year towards the end of January or the beginning of February but the financial year only begins in April which is when the national treasury allocates money that must be used for the months of January and February.
This means that they would not have money when institutions open, however, if the calendars are aligned then NSFAS will be able to have money before the academic year begins to fund NSFAS students.
NSFAS has also worked to enhance and simplify its application system in order to make it more user-friendly. The application system has been enhanced to make it similar to other application systems that prospective students are using.
Applicants are able to pause the application process and continue it at a later stage without restarting the application from scratch. The questions asked during the application process are also easier to understand.
The bursary has developed additional channels of application such as the mobile app, USSD line, and WhatsApp. Applicants can also use these channels to track their application or cancel it.
The Minister said that NSFAS will have an outreach programme to ensure that those who do not have access to technology can still apply.
Nsfas-funded students have experienced many issues with receiving their allowances and the issues with the current system is that there are incorrect or duplicate payments, there’s unauthorized access and there is a lack of physical verification which leads to payments being fictitious.
A new alternative for receiving allowances is currently being implemented in the form of an NSFAS MasterCard which will see students receiving their allowances in an NSFAS bank account and using the MasterCard to transact and make use of their funds.
This will first be implemented with some students and then a full roll-out will occur in a phased approach for universities and TVET colleges.