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NSFAS to fund all returning beneficiaries who meet criteria - Nzimande

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said that NSFAS was experiencing a shortfall for the 2021 academic year and this had resulted in the financial aid scheme not being able to confirm funding for new university students.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande addresses members of the media in Pretoria on 8 March 2021 on funding discussions for prospective students for the 2021 academic year. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has announced that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would be funding all returning beneficiaries who met academic and other relevant criteria.

Many parents and students have been panicking as NSFAS has not yet confirmed funding for first-year students.

The delay has put pressure on institutions across the country, which have been unable to finalise their admissions and registration processes.

Nzimande said that the registration period would be extended by two weeks as a result of the delays.

READ: University registration for first-time students extended by two weeks - Nzimande

Minister Nzimande said that NSFAS was experiencing a shortfall for the 2021 academic year and this had resulted in the financial aid scheme not being able to confirm funding for new university students.

"We had for instance to continue to pay NSAFAS students' allowances even at the time when universities and colleges were closed."

He said that government was doing everything possible to address this urgently.

"And we are quite hopeful in the light of the commitment by the minister of Finance that no deserving student will be turned away if they meet the requirements."

WATCH: Minister Nzimande: No confirmed funding for new university students

The higher education sector has also agreed to extend the registration period for first-year students to ensure that no one was disadvantaged by this delay.

Meanwhile, the minister said that funding guidelines for the 2021 academic calendar were yet to be approved by Cabinet.

The minister said that government remained committed to ensure that deserving students were supported through higher education.

"In line with this commitment, the minister of finance directed the Department of Higher Education and Training should work with the national treasury to identify policy and funding options to be detailed in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement."

He said that policy and funding options would be presented to Cabinet on Wednesday.

"As the minister responsible for Higher Education and Training, I have to get concurrency and approval by Cabinet."

Nzimande said that budget cuts and the COVID-19 pandemic were to blame for the shortfall in NSFAS funding.

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