NSFAS prepares to fund far fewer students in 2024

  • NSFAS spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi has said that it is likely that the scheme won’t be able to fund a million students in 2024 due to budget cuts.
  • In 2023, NSFAS funded the educations of 1.1 million students across South Africa.
  • Around 120 000 students might not be able to receive funding in the 2024/2025 academic year.

National Treasury has decided to cut the budget of the tertiary education sector, including public universities, technical vocational education and training (TVET) institutions and the embattled National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) by R13.7 billion.

According to NSFAS spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi, who spoke to eNCA this morning, the budget cuts could cause the scheme to only be able to fund under a million students in the 2024 academic year. In 2023, NSFAS was regularly funding the tertiary education of around 1.1 million young people.

“With the current funding stream, the likelihood is that, correctly so, we might fund less than [one million students], but we will cross that bridge when we receive the applications, because the numbers we are funding are based on the applicants that qualify to be funded. We go up when we receive more qualified applicants, and we receive less when we receive less qualified applicants,” Mnisi told eNCA during a live broadcast.

NSFAS opened its application processes for 2024 on 21st November 2023 and by the end of that month already received over 200 000 applications. Of the over 1.1 million students who received funding in 2023, it is unknown how many are returning to their educations in 2024, but it is likely to be a large portion.

Mnisi says that NSFAS will continue to cover all seven areas it previously covered, including registration and tuition fees, accommodation, living allowance, learning material fees, and transport even though the scheme’s budget is likely to be cut down from the R49 billion it received in 2023.

A GroundUp report details that budget cuts could leave a total of 120 976 students unfunded in the 2024/2025 academic year, due only to the fact that the scheme simply has no more money to allocate to these students. The scheme has not said which students will be funded over others, but it may come down simply to a first-come, first-served basis.

Acting CEO of NSFAS Masile Ramorwesi, who took the reins of the scheme after previous CEO Andile Nongogo was fired for being implicated in alleged corrupt dealings, said at the beginning of December that cutting the funding could cause students to be forced into protest action.

“The potential changes could result in an increase in student protests due to a decrease in headcount funding,” they said during a media briefing.

“NSFAS may not be able to pay allowances on time and when most needed by students at the beginning of the financial year,” he added, explaining further severe issues caused by insufficient finances at the scheme.

However, missing allowance payment dates is nothing new at NSFAS, even when its budget wasn’t being cut. In September, an apparent “technical glitch” delayed the disbursement of allowances to NSFAS beneficiaries by a single day.

NSFAS will end 2023 suffering one of the most turbulent years in its history after formally launching in 1999. This year saw the hasty and ill-prepared launch of the maligned direct payment system, which introduced high banking fees and other complications to irate, underprivileged students.

The new system could possibly see some changes in 2024 with NSFAS reportedly working on new payment processes for the following academic year. Either way the scheme is rolling along with its plans for 2024, despite its many challenges.


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