Every year, university tuition and student housing fees increase to financially sustain institutions. These increases have resulted in some prospective students not being able to access higher education opportunities.
Before 2018, students pursuing their studies in public higher education institutions opted for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) student loan to finance their studies.
At the time, NSFAS was offered as a loan, and these students were required to sign a Loan Agreement with the Scheme.
Does NSFAS Offer Loans?
NSFAS operated as a student loan that catered for public university and college students until December 2017. However, the loan was converted into a bursary in 2018, meaning students funded from 2018 onwards would not be required to pay back the funding they received if they did not sign the loan agreement.
During the government bursary’s 2023 applications information session, the Head of Recoveries at NSFAS, Prenika Nundlal shared that NSFAS is trying to raise awareness for debtors to pay back their loans in the state of the free education post 2018.
According to NSFAS, the current state of accounts or loans that were approved before fee-free education were announced as being valid loan agreements since the students and the Scheme entered into an agreement at that time.
It is for this reason that NSFAS continues with the recovery of debt that was incurred pre-2018, once students have completed their qualification and are employed, in terms of the Loan Agreement that they had signed.
Funds-owed are recovered through an internal team and external collections processes on outstanding loans agreements from debtors.
Are there statistics of money that has been recovered from NSFAS loan debtors?
Currently, there are no statistics of recovery of money given as loans to students, but in an interview, NSFAS spokesperson, Slumezi Skosana has shared that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) would report students who are earning money, this compels them to repay their NSFAS loans.
Nundlal explained that external debt collectors will check outstanding accounts with no payments, this will be followed by SARS doing data matches and handing over those details to the debt collecting teams.
Higher Education has revealed that student debt might have serious implications on the future sustainability of the country’s institutions of learning, hence student formations have called on the private sector to pay it forward because they too benefit from students once they become graduates.