Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor says the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has received more than 400 000 funding applications for the 2019 financial year.
Pandor said this when she briefed the media in Cape Town on Tuesday.
The briefing comes after applications for funding for the 2019 academic year closed on 3 December following a two day extension from the 30 November 2018 deadline.
“As we prepare for next year, the 2019 application cycle has proceeded relatively smoothly with more than 400 000 applications received between the opening of applications on the 3rd September and the closing of applications on the 3rd of December,” she said.
Pandor said on average, NSFAS received more than 3 200 applications a day over the period from September to December, with the number reaching as high as 30 000 on one of the days.
Out of all the applications, 63% were females while males made up 37% of the applications.
A total of 34 413 applications were received from social grant beneficiaries. Students who are beneficiaries of the South Africa Social Security Agency automatically qualify in terms of the financial qualification criteria and will be funded if admitted and registered at a TVET college or university.
“However, it is a concern that only 24% of the applications are from learners who wish to enroll at TVET colleges, with the balance of 88% being applications for universities,” the Minister said.
Pandor said of all the applications, the highest number, 95 523, was received from the KwaZulu-Natal province. The number represents 45% of the total number of learners that wrote their National Senior Certificate in the province, while the lowest number was from the Northern Cape with 2 573 applications.
She said the success of the current application process can be attributed to a number of factors – including the revised and easy-to-complete online application system, which allowed applicants to complete an application within five minutes; the simplicity of the on-line and manual form with fewer fields to fill; and the accessibility of NSFAS where applicants have been able to apply at the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) as a result of the scheme’s long-standing partnership with the agency.
NSFAS reaches out to prospective applicants
Pandor said, meanwhile, that NSFAS went on the road and reached out to learners across the country to encourage them to apply for the bursary scheme for next year.
This included visits to community centres, shopping malls, high schools, clinics, churches, door-to-door campaigns and taxi ranks. She said this was also an opportunity for NSFAS to engage with parents and working youth who commute daily in the early hours to drive the application message home to their children and siblings.
“Through this campaign, NSFAS accessed as many people across as wide an area as possible, to ensure that everyone who may have wanted to apply for NSFAS was able to do so.
“NSFAS has informed me that feedback from applications has been positive, especially the fact that applications can be made on-line with a cellphone, and progress can be tracked on the cellphone. Nevertheless manual applications are still accepted and have been made in significant numbers in instances where access to technology remains a challenges.
Requirements for qualification
Pandor said the scheme was in the process of evaluating all applications received. The evaluations process checks whether applicants are eligible for funding by verifying all data received by students with third parties like the SA Revenue Service and Home Affairs.
“To qualify for funding a student must meet the financial eligibility criteria and register at an institution for an approved programme. Successful students will received bursary funding to cover their tuition fee for their registered programme and an allowance for learning materials. They may also qualify for subsidized accommodation and transport allowances where applicable,” she said.
She said NSFAS will communicate to students who meet the financial eligibility criteria and have received an academic offer via SMS and email at the beginning of January, and once academic results have been made available to NSFAS.
“Funding is only confirmed once a student has met the financial eligibility criteria and is formally registered at a public TVET college or university for an approved funded programme.
“During this process, NSFAS will work closely with institutions to ensure that integration of data is quick and seamless to allow the timeous release of funds to students and to avoid any repetition of the delays of 2018, where some qualifying students were left frustrated, homeless, hungry and without confirmation of their funding,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za