NSFAS Could Extend Applications For Student Loans

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Finally, in 2024 NSFAS began offering funding for missing middle students. However, the NSFAS application period was very short and only a few applicants managed to apply.


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In 2024, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) launched a new programme to support "missing middle" students. These are students from families with a combined annual income exceeding the R350,000 threshold for full NSFAS bursaries but still struggle to afford higher education costs. 

While most details about the NSFAS loans were unclear, a recent consultative session provided more clarity.

Who Qualifies for NSFAS Missing Middle Loans?

Students whose annual household income is above the R350,000 NSFAS threshold for full bursaries but below R600,000.

How to Apply for NSFAS Missing Middle Loans

The application period for NSFAS student loans closed in February 2024.

Vuyokazi Mafilika, Strategic Enablement Executive at NSFAS, assured stakeholders that NSFAS requested the operations team to share a list of provisionally accepted students with institutions.

This list will include those who meet the eligibility criteria and will indicate if any outstanding documentation is required.

If a student is provisionally funded, it means they qualify based on the assessment that has already been done. However, two steps must be taken by students before they begin benefitting from NSFAS funding.

NSFAS will then generate a loan agreement form, and that is what the student will ultimately sign, and that’s where surety will be contained. Only after that step has been completed can we say with certainty that the student has been funded.

They explained that once NSFAS has received sufficient information to populate and send the pre-agreement form, the student will have to sign this pre-agreement form and acknowledge the conditions stipulated in it. This will allow us to proceed with the next step of obtaining full registration information from the institution.

Students who sign up for NSFAS missing middle loans and are approved by NSFAS are required to sign a loan agreement with a surety clause. 

NSFAS will then generate a loan agreement form, and that is what the student will ultimately sign, and that's where surety will be contained. Only after that step is completed can we say with certainty that the student has been funded.

Mafilika says NSFAS anticipates it will begin funding missing middle school students in 2024 adding that the NSFAS operations team will be collaborating with institutions to expedite this process.

Additionally, I advocate for scheduling a meeting with our operations team as many of the questions raised today can best be addressed by them. They possess the expertise to offer clarity in this regard. 

Key Points about NSFAS Missing Middle Loans

Vuyokazi Mafilika clarified that missing middle loans will only be available for new registrations and will not cover historical debt.

Priority will be given to students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programmes (70% of loans) due to their higher employability rates, as determined by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

The 70/30 split arose because these qualifications offer a greater chance of students being employed, and ultimately, repaying the loan. In making this decision, the DHET had drawn from available institutional data. 

Loan repayment will be assessed based on the student's combined household income. There is no requirement for employed students to pay back immediately, according to Mafilika.

Allowances provided will align with those offered in the bursary scheme.

In the event of a student's passing, the loan will likely be written off by the accounting authority or the board. Mafilika said their current process proposes for the loans to be written off but consultations are ongoing for final confirmation.

The loan scheme also covers postgraduate studies, including research qualifications, as stated by Mafilika.

Additional Considerations

A possible extension on applications for the 2025 intake may be considered.

Concerns were raised about the implementation timeline for undergraduate students already in the academic year.

NSFAS is actively working to improve the loan scheme for postgraduate students. They are committed to expanding funding provisions and requirements based on ongoing consultations.

We are mindful and have been in conversation with the Department of Higher Education that we need to expand further for postgraduate students. 

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