Free education: Nsfas, universities & students need to work together

Nsfas spokesperson Kagiso Mamabolo says each university distributes funds to its students based on its unique administration processes but Nsfas will be paying stipends to students directly from July.

FILE: Students are urged to sign loan agreements when they receive funding confirmation from Nsfas to avoid delays in receiving allowances. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) and Universities South Africa (USAF) are calling for cooperation between the two bodies and university students to ensure free education in the country is implemented smoothly.

There have been a number of protests by university students across the country who have called for funds to be given out more efficiently.

Since the announcement of free education was made by former president Jacob Zuma, Nsfas has received over 420,000 requests for funding – with more than 200,000 students already being informed that they are being subsidised.

Additionally, more than 140,000 students have qualified for funding but have not received funding because Nsfas needs to confirm their university registration and income figures.

Speaking to EWN, Nsfas spokesperson Kagiso Mamabolo says more than R6 billion has been paid to tertiary educational institutions for stipends since January. Mamabolo says payments for stipends went through in January, March and April.

Universities South Africa received R1.5 billion on 26 January 2018, another R1.1 billion on 20 March 2018. The latest payment was R2.3 billion on 2 April 2018.

Additionally, T-VET colleges received R386 million on 26 January 2018, another R542 on 20 March 2018. The last payment was R619 million on 2 April 2018.

Mamabolo says each university distributes funds to its students based on its unique administration processes but Nsfas will be paying stipends to students directly from July.

The spokesperson urges universities to call upon Nsfas to aid in the distribution of funds if they are incapable of doing so; adding that it is also the responsibility of the funding body to hold universities accountable on whether stipends are being paid.

Meanwhile, Universities South Africa CEO Ahmed Bawa says Nsfas and USAF meet on a monthly basis to identify and address issues facing the bodies.

Bawa says students receive confirmation on their Nsfas applications late because the data-collection software between individual universities and Nsfas were incompatible, but has since been resolved.

Bawa further adds that some universities have already begun to distribute funds to students without knowing the correct amount that Nsfas has allocated.

The CEO – just like Mamabolo – says he cannot account for each institution as they release funds to students on their own terms.Both Bawa and Mamabolo agree that the key priority is to get students into class.

The pair has called on students to sign their loan agreements. The loan agreement’s basic terms and conditions stipulate that students need to pass 50% of their modules per year.

Funding will be granted for the minimum time required to complete the degree, including an additional two years should the student need to repeat a course or module to obtain the degree.

Example:
BA General - Bachelor’s Degree
Minimum time required: three years
Funding will be available for five years if the student passes 50% of all modules per year.

Mamabolo says that the onus is on all three parties: For universities, to send registration data punctually and to pay correctly when funds are received; for students, to sign their loan agreements punctually; for Nsfas to process data and pay punctually.

He further adds that universities across the country will claim for tuition fees from Nsfas once the number of students is confirmed.