Fasset reduces student debt through its innovative NSFAS Loan Repayment Grant
“Student protests against the payment of university fees are not new. Students in countries as far afield as Bangladesh, Australia, Finland, the United Kingdom and Hungary have protested against the payment of university fees. What is unique, however, about South Africa’s no fees campaign is the fact that many of the student protestors face grinding poverty on a daily basis. This is not surprising when one considers that more than half of all South Africans live below the national poverty line,” says Fasset CEO, Cheryl James.
Graduation is not the end of financial hardship. “Graduation for many debt-ridden students in South Africa does not mean they have summited Everest. Many will carry a heavy financial burden for years as they need to repay their student loans. They will only summit Everest once they are free of their student debt,” James contends.
The Finance and Accounting Services Seta is very cognisant of the financial challenges that university graduates with student loans face. “Fasset has been running its own personal campaign to reduce student debt among learners on learnerships for a number of years now. We are a pioneer in this regard with the introduction of our innovative NSFAS Loan Repayment Grant,” she explains.
The NLRG provides learners registered on a learnership with a Fasset employer, who are repaying their NFSAS loans, a ‘once in a life-time opportunity’. The Seta will repay up to R60 000.00 of their outstanding NSFAS loan. Learners, who are claiming this grant for the first time, will be eligible to apply for all previous years of the learnership already completed. The amount payable is based on the length of the learnership and how much of the learnership has been completed. Repayments are made directly to NSFAS and are based on a tariff.
The NLRG is available to African learners and learners with disabilities, who are South African citizens with a valid South African identity document; who hold a three-year qualification in a scarce skills area within the Fasset sector; and are in full-time employment and on a learnership programme with an employer registered with Fasset. Learnerships are not restricted to Fasset learnerships.
The NLRG is also helping to retain skills within the sector: “Many learners are not only repaying their NSFAS loans, they are also paying tuition fees for their current studies. There is a real risk, that if offered a higher salary, these learners may be tempted to abandon their learnership. By repaying a large portion, and in some cases all of their student loan, learners are able to focus on completing their learnership. This is a very important if we are to build a robust skills pipeline for the entire economy.”
James urges employers to inform eligible learners about the loan and also encourage them to apply. “Imagine how you would feel if you were a learner, who had up to R60 000 of your loan repaid. This is life changing. Imagine the impact that the NLRG could have if it was adopted by other Setas and possibly even large employers,” James concludes.