Tag Archives: NSFAS

Nzimande in poor students corner

While Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has rejected calls for free education for all, he has vowed to present a “compelling case” for poor students to get a better deal.

Nzimande is, in the light of the review committee report on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), pushing for the state to consider using the scheme as a basis to introduce free undergraduate education for needy students.

The NSFAS report, which has been compiled by a panel led by Professor Marcus Balintulo, has recommended radical changes in the way the scheme operates and calls for changes to policy regulations including the distribution formula for the allocation of financial aid to institutions.

But even Nzimande is aware that such changes may take a little longer to yield the desired results and some of the committee’s recommendations may even be rejected by Cabinet.

With Cabinet expected to make a decision on the matter by August, Nzimande has vowed to make a case for his strife for free education for financially needy and academically deserving students.

Nzimande told BuaNews: “We think that this report… all those stakeholders should actually study it closer and respond to it and also of course take into account that government does have limited amounts of funds but (we need to see) where we can start together.

“We are not starting from scratch, NSFAS has already supported hundreds of thousands of students, but how do we then strengthen it and be able to move closer to the goal of free higher education at least to undergraduate level for poor students.”

Although the minister pointed out that a number of prospective students who require NSFAS to further their education were from families where there was – in some instances – no bread winners, Balintuli was not shy to note that during its work, the committee was faced with the dilemma of having to separate between the responsibility of the state and that of parents.

“It’s a matter that we really struggled with in trying to determine what is the responsibility of the state and the expected family contribution because whatever we had to recommend had to touch on the review of the founding formula of NSFAS,” he said.

But the matter was up Nzimande’s alley – at least in principle. “It’s nice to talk about parental responsibility when you can afford (to pay).The reality is that most students cannot afford,” he said.

For what he calls “the missing middle”, Nzimande wants NSFAS to review the current policy that allows the scheme to assist only students whose household income is less than R122 000 per annum. He argues that there are many parents who earn up to R160 000 per annum but cannot afford to send their children to institutions of higher learning.

“The scheme does not take into account that it may happen that we are earning R150 000 but we have got two kids at university and you will still not qualify. So those are the things the report is helping us to properly grasp and understand”.

The panel also suggested that the race-based model for allocating funds be replaced by a class-based model using solely socio-economic criteria, while acknowledging the continuing overlap between race and class in post-apartheid South Africa.

While many have suggested there might be a link between financial difficulties and the recurrent violent protests at universities, Nzimande said reasons for the protests are varied.

“What we’ve found for instance this year, because we have set up a registration task team just to oversee what is happening, is that sometimes its just lack of proper communication amongst the stakeholders and that includes management.”

Student bodies in varsity campuses nationwide have recently protested against financial exclusion.

Nzimande said the task team had identified weaknesses in the administrative system where students in some institutions get thrown out erroneously while others get accepted.

“So those are some of the things that cause a problem at the beginning of the year but that does not lead to denying the fact that one of the biggest challenges is financial exclusion on the grounds that some students cannot afford to pay and NSFAS has not been able to reach all of them,” he added.

While Nzimande has been clearly sympathetic to the call for free education since assuming the ministry in May last year, he has been equally clear in his message that only financially needy and academically deserving students should be considered if and when a free education system finally emerges. For now he doesn’t want to “pre-empt” the discussions at Cabinet and all he has vowed to do is present a “compelling case”.

Source: BuaNews

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Report lifts lid on financial aid scheme

The Department of Higher Education could soon instruct the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to stop deducting money from past beneficiaries of the scheme without their consent.

Currently past students who owe NSFAS and who are now working are having their salaries deducted by employers without their consent and the money is paid straight to the scheme.

But a ministerial committee tasked to review NSFAS on Tuesday released its much-awaited report that is set to bring drastic changes in student funding. It also demands NSFAS to remove all students it has black listed on credit bureaus.

The committee, led by professor Marcus Balintulo has also recommended changes to the policy, regulations and operational framework of the NSFAS to allow the scheme to absorb more needy student who wished to further their education.

It says the Minister of Education Blade Nzimande should on constitutional, legal and moral grounds instruct NSFAS to immediately stop all loan recoveries from past students without their consent and refrain from using this method in its dept recovery practice.

NSFAS is a state-funded initiative formed in 2000 to assist financially needy students enter institutions of higher education.

The scheme replaced Tertiary Education Funds of South Africa (TEFSA) which was formed in 1991.In 2005, the scheme awarded R1.2 billion to financially needy students who wished to further their studies.

The committee, which spent more than eight months reviewing the scheme, has further recommended the investigating the introduction of a constitutionally compliant section of the NSFAS Act to enable NSFAS to recover loan repayments directly through the taxation system.

It wants government to revalue the NSFAS loan book to assess the accuracy of the R10 billion valuation and that the revaluations should be done timeously to allow the minister to report any adjustment to parliament prior to the financial year end.
“The committee also recommends that NSFAS should not blacklist students with credit bureaus and should remove the names of all students currently black listed with the TransUnion ITC credit bureau and or any other credit bureaus,” said the report.

Speaking later to BuaNews Nzimande said while he was not expecting Cabinet to agree all the recommendations saying “we will be presenting our case”.
“I don’t want to preempt a discussion in Cabinet, all we would like to do to the best of our ability is to present a compelling case,” Nzimande said.

He affirmed that while the report touched on many issues, not all of them can be solved in a short period of time.

“We have to go to Cabinet and say what is it that we think its feasible but that we want to increase access to poor students is non-negotiable”.

The panel has also recommended that government investigate whether to expand the categories of students admitted to universities, to include people with work experience and no matric, and end the criteria of using race as major criteria to award financial assistance to students.

Research has shown that only between 12 and 15 percent of black and coloured students gain entrance to higher education and only about five percent graduate. There is also evidence that some white students had been refused assistance even though some may have proved to be financially needy.

Nzimande slammed universities who were still demanding NSFAS students to pay registration fees in cash despite a directive from his predecessor Naledi Pandor urging universities to rather deduct the money from the scheme.

“It’s nice to talk about the parental responsibility versus state responsibility when you can afford. But the reality is that most students cannot afford these registration fees and some are from families with no bread winner at all,” he said.

The recommendations will be released for public comment.

“We want the country to engage on especially the stakeholders; many of them have participated in the process and were already interviewed. We’re talking students, academics, university management, workers and what the committee is saying is that the report has benefited immensely from the comments of the stakeholders,” Nzimande said.

The minister conceded that while the recommendations may require a major financial injection into the scheme and the higher education sector in general, a consideration needed to be made as to where the line should be drawn between state responsibility and that of parents.
NSFAS has provided study loans an estimated 250 000 students. The scheme fund receives about R2.1-billion a year from the government. –

Source: BuaNews, nsfas.co.za,

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