How NSFAS Is Tackling Student Debt



It is estimated that Universities are owed around R16.5 billion by students. This historic debt not only affects universities, but also the students who owe the money.




A survey conducted by the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation in 2021 revealed that National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) students owe institutions of higher learning around R5.3 billion.

In some cases, students cannot continue with their studies due to outstanding tuition fees and historical debt, leaving many of them in limbo.

In February, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande expressed his concern at the amount of students who are in financial aid debt.

He subsequently announced the Close-Out Project undertaken by the Nsfas aimed at tackling historic student debt and addressing the historic challenges of outstanding data reconciliation between Nsfas and institutions of higher learning in the country.

Nzimande said that while there has been participation from some universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, some did not provide the required feedback to Nsfas

He said, “I have noted that there are sixteen universities that have fully submitted their files, with ten (10) have one or two years outstanding, fifteen TVET colleges have not submitted their files while 11 have partially submitted and 19 have fully submitted”.

The Minister warned that Institutions that do not submit the required data to Nsfas continue to prejudice students that can be resolved to resume their studies.

He added that the project aims to complete all the work relating to funding of students and disbursement of allowances for the academic years 2017 to 2020.

In April it was revealed that all 26 universities had responded with the files, while 41 out of 50 of TVET colleges had responded with the files. This meant that nine TVET colleges had not submitted data for the Nsfas close-out project.

Non-responsive TVET colleges were sent a legal letter, stating the Nsfas position on their non-compliance with the close out process and the consequence of their action. NSFAS had concluded the reconciliation process based on the data available at its disposal.

Approximately 1.6 million university students were affected by the close-out, but it had managed to clear about 1 033 000 students. Around 52 000 students whose data was not provided to Nsfas, can be cleared through proof provided by institutions.

For TVET students, there were 1.3 million affected students of which, around 764 000 were cleared by Nsfas.

There were about 34 000 whose records were missing on Nsfas’ part.





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