R3.8 billion fund within NSFAS for ‘missing means’ students

Henry

The government has created a R3.8 billion fund within the National Financial Aid Scheme for Students (NSFAS) to support students who are trapped in the so-called “missing means”.

These are students from households that earn too much to be eligible for NSFAS bursaries, but earn too little to be eligible for bank loans for studies. These are therefore students whose annual combined household income is between R350 000 and R600 000.

Blade Nzimande, minister of higher education, said during a press conference on Sunday that the government is ready to implement the first phase of this student financing model.

According to the minister, the R3.8 billion is made up of R1.5 billion from the NSFAS fund and R2.3 billion from sector training and training authorities.

This will finance 47% of the missing middle students, a total of 31 884 out of 68 446 students, says Nzimande. “This is a very important milestone for the ANC government to ensure a better life for everyone as we celebrate 30 years of freedom,” he said.

The second phase is expected to be introduced between 2025 and 2035 and the government has plans to increase the financing over the 10-year period with the help of private and state-owned banks.

Wynand Boshoff, FF Plus spokesperson for higher education, science and innovation, said in response to an inquiry from RNews that his party is happy that the so-called missing drug is getting the attention it needs.

“The mess in NSFAS has been heavily discussed in recent weeks. All that the FF Plus currently wants to respond to in this regard is the temporary appointment of prof. Lourens van Staden as chairman of the council. This is after the sitting chairman, Ernest Khosa, voluntarily stepped down, so that corruption allegations against him can be investigated,” says Boshoff.

Van Staden is a seasoned academic administrator, who in addition to his former position as rector of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) also administered more than one university. The FF Plus views his appointment in an extremely positive light.

“As far as the student loans are concerned, Nzimande says that this is part of a comprehensive financing scheme, which his department is working on. The FF Plus sincerely hopes that requirements for the different groups of students are brought into line with each other.”

Bursary holders from the ranks of the “poor and the working class”, as NSFAS usually refers to them, do not have to pay anything back – regardless of their compensation level after studies are completed. They also have two extra years during which they are fully funded to complete a qualification.

In contrast, “missing means” students must repay their loans and achieve at least a 60% average in order to repeat the loan in the following year.

According to the FF Plus, all students must be recorded on the South African Revenue Service’s database as soon as they receive financial support from NSFAS. “When they start earning an income, their loans must be repaid, according to an interest rate related to their compensation,” says Boshoff.

Another problem the minister referred to is the financing of postgraduate study. In the university environment, a postgraduate qualification is required by various professional associations, before the relevant profession can be entered.

“Graduate scholarships are rare. The National Research Foundation (or NRF) which currently handles this is woefully underfunded to meet this need. If all student funding is repayable, the minister’s ‘coherent solution for student funding’ can be achieved sooner and also be sustainable.”