Help at hand for poor students

University students. Picture: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele.

University students. Picture: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme has R21 billion in outstanding loans, but says prospective students should not lose hope.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) is appealing to Grade 12 pupils and those already at universities to apply to universities as soon as possible to avoid a lack of study aid due to late applications.

The scheme opens its applications from August until October every year. Nsfas spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo said some prospective students – especially those in poor areas – were giving up on their dreams due to lack of knowledge on available means of funding for furthering their studies after school.

“One of the reasons some of the pupils from impoverished backgrounds are, at times, demotivated from continuing with their studies after school is due to lack of knowledge concerning a number of financial aid options available to cover their studies at universities and colleges.”

In April, Nsfas chairperson Sizwe Nxasana assured the public that the scheme had funds to help the needy with their academic needs.

Though Nxasana said most Nsfas students dropped out due to lack of proper support, including emotional support, he added the scheme was working on a model to bring such necessary support. Since its inception in 1991, Nsfas had awarded about R50 billion in loans and bursaries to about 1.5 million students, Mamabolo said.

The aid scheme normally covers tuition fees, residence or private accommodation costs, food, books and travel. Nxasana also urged Nsfas beneficiaries who had graduated and were working to repay their loans to assist needy students.

He also warned that if a scheme beneficiary was working but decided to ignore the call to repay the loan, a normal credit collection route would be taken.

He added that Nsfas had R21 billion in outstanding loans and, of that, it had recovered more than R200 million. He said half the debt came from current students while the other half came from beneficiaries in the job market. –

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