Tag Archives: student loans

Initiatives costing billions alleviates fee burden of university students

The Department of Higher Education and Training has to date established a variety of initiatives costing billions of rands to reduce the responsibility of fees from poor parents and students in South Africa.

Student loans and bursaries given by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have already been increased substantially during the last three years and this has contributed significantly in aiding academically deserving and poor students.

“Funding the loans and bursaries has tripled from R2.375 billion in 2008 to R6 billion in 2011. Aside from that, the department has also made available R50 million for post graduate scholarships and R63 million for students with disabilities said,” said Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande.

 

 
Replying to a letter of complaints received by the department from the South African Students Congress (SASCO) not too long ago, asking for free education, Nzimande stated he was wholly committed for the introduction of “fee-free” education for the poor growing to be a reality sooner rather than later.

Having said that, he mentioned that SASCO’s discontent with the launch of a Ministerial Working Group on Fee-Free University Education for the poor. He explained the fact that the working group was not replicating the work carried out by the NSFAS Review Committee, as SASCO’s memorandum claims.

“I would argue that the working group be actually allowed to complete its work in order to advise me on the content and scope of a policy framework within which fee free education should be implemented in South Africa,” Nzimande said.

 

Both SASCO and the department share common concerns pertaining to making improvements to the living and learning environments for students at higher education and training institutions, as well as the escalation fees at the institutions. Methods to address these issues were currently being investigated as an element of the work undertaken by the funding review committee.

Nzimande additionally reminded students that tuition fees charged by higher education institutions happen to be dependent upon individual university councils decisions and not by the ministry.

Nzimande called on SASCO to make submissions on all investigations which are presently underway in relation to Higher Education and Training in the country.

Source: BuaNews

Overcharged students to be refunded by NSFAS

 

About 34 000 students who were overcharged interest on study loans by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in previous years will be paid back.

This has been disclosed by Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande during the announcement of the results of the turnaround strategy carried out to deal with difficulties experienced by the NSFAS.

The interventions, which included the restructuring of the board of NSFAS in December 2010, has witnessed NSFAS move from an audit disclaimer to an unqualified audit.

Nzimande pointed out that when the NSFAS recalculated every student loan in its books, it established that it had overcharged interest on some student loans in past years.

“The annual financial statements show a provision of R77.8 million to refund former students. NSFAS is going to be getting in touch with each one to make necessary arrangements for the refund,” Nzimande said.

He was quoted saying that one of the primary tasks of the turnaround strategy was to correct the value of NSFAS loan book, where a comprehensive exercise was performed with the assistance of a team including accounting, auditing and actuarial experts.

 

 

 

He noted that the NSFAS loan book, which accrued irregular expenditure of R25.6 million over the last financial year, is now correctly valued at R5.2 billion.

“All the reasons for disclaimer have already been resolved to the satisfaction of the Auditor General,” said Nzimande.

The reasons for the disclaimer included the inability to produce scientifically compelling evidence to the Auditor General for writing off R589 million in interest on outstanding loans, along with the failure to provide evidence with regards to how management reached its estimate for doubtful debts.

The Auditor General has additionally pointed out the wrong calculations of interest income of R181 million, when it ought to have been more.

Nzimande further declared that R200 million has been made available to make it possible for NSFAS to grant loans to students who have finished their studies however have not yet received their certificates or graduated as a consequence of outstanding debt.

“This will make it possible for approximately 25 000 students to receive their certificates and enter the job market. All students who fulfilled the requirements for graduation between 2000 and 2010 and eligible for NSFAS loans can apply for this special funding through their student financial offices,” Nzimande explained.

NSFAS board member and executive committee member, Collette Caine, pointed out that every effort will be made to refund students.

“We are committed to track and refund all of them,” said Caine.

NASFAS Chairperson of the Finance Committee, Nathan Johnstone, said universities were in the process of finalising the list of students who have finished their studies and qualified for the grant.

“We are at present not able to provide the final figure of those students as the universities are still finalising the number of qualifying students.”

 

The hotline for students who have problems regarding access to NSFAS is 0800 872 222.

 

Source: BuaNews

Students to reap benefits from transformed NSFAS

The Higher Education and Training Department and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board have recommitted to being sure that full compliance with all legislative and regulatory requirements to be able to receive clean audits in future.

NSFAS has obtained an unqualified audit from the Auditor General after having a turnaround strategy put in place after it received an audit disclaimer this past year.

Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said his department and NSFAS board were mutually devoted to accomplishing the remainder of its turnaround goals, this includes boosting the amount of money readily available for both loans and bursaries, and improving upon the way NSFAS communicates its message to learners. This will assist students to become mindful of the financial assistance that is accessible to them prior to leaving school.

The checklist of goals also involves widening the definition of students who happen to be qualified to apply for student financial aid, streamlining the application processes making sure that money reaches students simply and efficiently and introducing modern systems to control the billions of rands that NSFAS distributes.

The scheme at the same time intends to crack down on fraud and corruption at institutions making sure that financial aid actually reaches the students it is intended for; and drastically decreasing the number of NSFAS students who either fail or drop out by creating programmes together with institutions and stakeholders to provide students the most effective possibility of graduating.

 

 

“My department and NSFAS happen to be in the process of introducing the far-reaching modifications at the NSFAS which will see it accomplish these goals within the next three years,” Nzimande said.

Ever since the creation of NSFAS in 1999, funds allotted to NSFAS have risen significantly from R441 million in 1999 to R5.5 billion in 2011/2012, furnishing financial aid to 210 000 students in 2010.

As stated by the minister, the master plan is to expand this figure in an attempt to realise the objective of progressively providing free education for students coming from poor families as mandated by government.

“Part of our long term strategy is to move to a student-centric model to be sure the money follows the students,” he said, adding that NSFAS is going to be undertaking periodic audits to make certain that funds allotted to all institutions are put to use accordingly.

 

 

NSFAS Chairperson Zamayedwa Sogayise stated that the board was fully commited to putting in place the policies, strategies, operational plans and leadership designed to completely transform NSFAS towards a model public entity, competent at delivering financial aid to students who will go on to complete their educational goals and play a role in the development of South Africa.

“The board has made considerable progress in accomplishing its turnaround objectives while setting up and maintaining current operations,” said Sogayise, adding the fact that the board expects to be able to report much better performance in all areas of operation within the next year.

The scheme at present extends to students at 23 universities and 50 Further Education Training colleges nationwide.

 

For information, contact NSFAS directly – click here

Source: BuaNews

Renewed focus on SA teachers

The Department of Basic Education is building up its advertising and marketing campaign to draw in young adults to take up teaching via the Funza Lushaka Bursary initiative.

Starting from next month, the department announced that it is going to “recruit the very best of young people to the teaching profession.” It has at the same time declared that there would be a “more scripted strategy to teacher development.”

This approach, it explained, would come with training and support to teachers to “make it possible for them to manage and utilize efficient techniques to teach specific content areas,” which the Annual National Assessment had demonstrated that they are difficult for learners.

 

 

As part of endeavours to bolster accountability within the education system, the department stated it was in fact working closely with the Education Labour Relations Council to formulate performance management contracts with principals and deputy principals.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her deputy Enver Surty were responding to journalists on Tuesday during a Human Development Cluster briefing in Cape Town.

Talking on behalf of the minister, Surty revealed that “all principals and deputy principals are going to enter into performance contracts in the foreseeable future along with clear performance targets.”

He pointed out that far better performance at basic education level was in fact critical for reaching the goals and objectives of the Department of Higher Education and Training.

“Education and training happen to be central in improving the required skills that will actually ensure a simple yet effective response to the needs of the labour market… as well as guaranteeing inclusive beneficiation in the economy.”

He explained that government had observed that the South African labour market was “seriously affected by skills shortages.

As part of initiatives to boost the new Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas), the department had initiated interventions which sought to improve access to training and skills development opportunities.

“The unveiling of the new Seta landscape has resulted in the restructuring of Setas… to further improve governance, administration along with a focus on achieving sectoral skills needs and boost training levels overall.

“A standard constitution for all Setas has been unveiled to make sure there is uniformity and alignment with respect to the operation of Setas”

 

 

On a related matter, Surty declared that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is definately not charging interest on student loans “until 1 year after the student has graduated or left university.”

This, he explained, would apply to “all NSFAS loans to students registered on 1 April 2011 and [beyond].”

“An additional R50 million has been made available for postgraduate students who require financial help in order to complete their Honours, Master’s and Doctoral Degrees.

“These students will enter into loan agreements with NSFAS and the funds they repay are going to be earmarked to fund future postgraduate students.”

He said that the Department of Higher Education had at the same time requested NSFAS to remove from the credit bureau “all students they already have blacklisted,” specifically recipients of NSFAS loans.

At the same time, there are also plans by the Department of Basic Education and President Jacob Zuma to go back to the Eastern Cape to deal with the education turmoil there.

Source: BuaNews

Government to assist 25 000 students waiting to graduate

The Department of Higher Education and Training is coming to the rescue of approximately 25 000 students from universities who have finished studies however are not in a position to graduate and obtain work for the reason that they have not yet finished paying student loans.

Briefing the media prior to his Budget Vote in Parliament today, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, talked about how his department is going to set aside roughly R200 million to assist students who had obtained loans and had since graduated, but still owed monies to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

All those who qualify to graduate between 2000 and 2010, and furthermore eligible for NSFAS loans can apply for this particular special funding with the aid of their respective student financial-aid offices, he explained.

Nzimande, who also made several other announcements on the NSFAS, said the new measure would apply to students that registered for loans from April 1.

These included a doubling of disbursements under the fund – from R2.7 billion in the 2010/11 financial year to R5.4 billion this financial year – and placing a limit on interest charged on student loans, so that students no longer have to pay the interest on their loans until 12 months after their graduation.

At present, interest charged on loans kicks in the moment you sign for a loan, unlike in Brazil and Canada, where interest payments on student loans only become payable after a student graduates.

Added to this, R50 million has been provided for post-graduate students who require financial assistance to complete their degrees.

These students will enter into loan agreements with the NSFAS and the money they pay back would be earmarked to fund post-graduate students, Nzimande, said.

But Nzimande hastened to add that this wasn’t a license for other students to not pay back their NSFAS loans.

He said the department would approach SARS to assist in tracing and forcing those NSFAS loan beneficiaries, who are now working but are not paying back loans, to pay back their loans.

The department is also looking to increase the number of university accommodation available to students.

 

Currently only 18.5 percent of students stay in university accommodation and the department had set aside R686 million for the years between 2010 and 2012, to build and refurbish student residences, he said.

Nzimande said preliminary reports were being studied by the department on setting up universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, while work is also under way to increase the number of universities that offer courses for teachers that want to teach in African languages.

The department was also busy overhauling Further Education and Training (FET) colleges and department officials had already visited all 50 FET colleges to assess how to give hands-on support.

The minister said the career advice services programme, run by the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa), was launched in January this year and a website was now up and running – www.careerhelp.org.za, as well as a Facebook group – www.facebook.com/careerhelp.

The department is partnering with the SABC, which is running 30-minute career guidance slots on nine radio stations, reaching about 2.3 million listeners per week.

The programme is broadcast in nine African languages and Nzimande said the department intended expanding the radio programme to Afrikaans as well.

Turning to the transformation of the Skills Education and Training Authorities (Setas), Nzimande said the department was strengthening Seta governance and had reduced the number of Setas from 23 to 21.

He said the department is tackling underspending at Setas and has told boards to reduce the trend.

Setas would be reconfigured to spend more on long-term workplace-orientated training.

The department would also be setting up a task team to analyse where Setas spend money and how much use Setas make of public learning bodies, rather than just private consultants.

Commenting about media reports on the appointment of ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe’s wife Nolwande as a member of the new Services Seta’s board, Nzimande said Mrs Mantashe is a human-resource expert and should be seen on her own merits as a professional, rather than be judged on who she is married to.

Nzimande said the Green Paper on Higher Education would be released later this year.

The appointment of a new director general is in process and the department would begin interviewing candidates soon, he said.

Source: BuaNews