The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will continue defunding students who they deem are not deserving of funding. This forms part of the financial aid scheme’s efforts to rectify funding irregularities and prevent students from wrongly benefiting from the government bursary.
NSFAS’ decision to commence with a remedial process of defunding students came in response to the funding that they paid more than R5 billion to students who did not meet the eligibility criteria but received funding.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) presented draft findings to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) that revealed that a staggering 76 institutions, involving approximately 40 044 students, were improperly granted bursaries between 2018 and 2021.
The prescriptions of our policies and the law will be implemented firmly and vigorously to avoid a repeat of the more than R5 billion that was allocated incorrectly to students since 2016.
NSFAS spokesperson Slumezi Skosana explained that the scheme is currently verifying information submitted by students.
If the information provided by students is not consistent with information sourced from other government entities like the South African Revenue Service (SARS) the Department of Home Affairs, or the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), the student will be defunded.
Applicants would misrepresent their information to say that they actually earn less than that [R350,000 household income threshold] when in fact they earn more than that.
NSFAS Wrongfully Defunding Students
While NSFAS is determined to ensure that only deserving students receive the comprehensive bursary, students at several universities believe they were wrongfully defunded by NSFAS
NSFAS acknowledges that there have been complaints from students who were erroneously defunded, and NSFAS has expressed regret if these cases are true. They will immediately initiate a process of verifying these complaints and taking appropriate action following the verification.
NSFAS Working To Resolve Student Allowances Challengers
NSFAS has been engaging with universities and addressing concerns raised by students regarding direct payments and accountability. Stakeholders noted their concern regarding excessive charges, inaccessibility, lack of clarity on accessing funds, and allegations of funds not reaching the intended beneficiaries.
Erroneous and fraudulent transactions prompted NSFAS to take over direct payments to ensure better coordination and accountability. One notable incident was when a student received R14 million instead of the R1400 that they were supposed to receive.
NSFAS emphasises the importance of accountability from its fintech service provider and expects a reliable and predictable system for student allowances. They warned that appropriate action will be taken if the fintech partners fail to meet expectations.
The financial aid scheme intends to investigate all the complaints and take appropriate action if proven true. Service providers were instructed by NSAS to increase their presence at institutions to address student queries directly.
A meeting between student leaders, NSFAS management, and service providers is scheduled to resolve relevant matters. One of these resolutions includes ensuring transaction costs and bank charges are standardised across all partners.
NSFAS said they remain committed to a student-centred model and creating an environment conducive to academic activities while taking pride in the fact they assist more than one million students on their tertiary education journey.
They will endeavour to increase their capacity, engaging with stakeholders and seeking valuable input for service enhancements. They are committed to prioritising students' interests over disputes among service providers or other parties.
NSFAS Income Threshold
The NSFAS bursary is aimed at ensuring that students from poor and working-class households can attend a tertiary education institution and obtain a qualification.
One of the main eligibility criteria set by NSFAS is the household income threshold. Students who come from homes that exceed the threshold will not qualify for the NSFAS bursary.
The current household income threshold for the NSFAS bursary is R350 000. The household income threshold for students living with disabilities is R600 000.