The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will experience a R4.5 billion shortfall, the presidential task team set up to probe the funding challenges at the country’s universities has found.
In a statement released on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma’s office said the task team had handed him its report which contains several recommendations on funding the shortfall.
While the task team confirmed the R2.3 billion shortfall in university funding for 2016 would be sourced from both government and the academic institutions, the NSFAS shortfall would be funded through offering loans to students and reprioritisation of funds from the fiscus.
“The NSFAS shortfall has been quantified at R4.582 billion. The report recommends that R2.543 billion of this amount must be made available from the fiscus, in the form of loans to provide short-term debt relief to 71,753 students who were funded inadequately or were unable to access financial aid over the 2013 to 2015 academic years,” the Presidency said.
“The further R2.039 billion is required in the 2016/17 financial year to ensure that currently unfunded continuing students receive NSFAS support in the 2016 academic year.”
Additional recommendations included that the NSFAS “improve its administrative systems”, that “rules pertaining to academic eligibility of students for NSFAS should be applied consistently”, and that a new financing model be developed.
This financing model, which would include banks making available loans at favourable rates to students without providing surety, would have to be developed next year for implementation in 2017, the Presidency said.
“Investment should be solicited from the full range of stakeholders to enable implementation on the scale required.”
Zuma announced the establishment of the task team following national student protests which halted examinations and forced government to slash fee increases for 2016 to zero percent.