NELSON Mandela Metropolitan University students whose studies are paid for by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) are among the first to try out the government scheme’s new payment model this year.
The new model, being piloted at seven universities and five FET colleges across the country, will fund students’ full qualifications instead of studies on a yearly basis, and students will not need to re-apply each year.
The university’s 3596 students granted funding this year are the first to experience the changes, which will see a portion of the money paid directly to them through vouchers redeemable at compatible outlets.
Allowances for private accommodation, books, groceries and transport – to the tune of R38000 a year – will be given directly to students in the form of sBux vouchers sent to their phones.
According to NSFAS, the new model aimed to forge a direct relationship with students and encourage them to repay their loans faster. The change would also reduce the “potential fraud and corruption at institutions to ensure financial aid reaches the students for whom it is intended”.
To date, NSFAS is owed more than R18-billion by past students and recovers an average R500-million a year.
NMMU, along with the King Hintsa FET College in Mthatha, are the only institutions in the Eastern Cape to be part of the pilot.
A third of the country’s students currently on financial aid are part of the pilot. This is set to grow to 60% next year and all students in 2016.
In its presentation to the university last month, NSFAS said all NMMU students receiving financial aid this year would be part of the pilot.
Students would get a maximum of R5000 for books at registration time and R6000 for food. For off-campus accommodation and bus fare, students would get R21000 and R6000 respectively paid out throughout the year.
The scheme has come under scrutiny with complaints coming from the country’s students about a lack of funds as perceptions have grown that the scheme is bankrupt.
NSFAS executive officer Msulwa Daca rejected these rumours, saying the scheme had money, but it was simply not enough to cater to the increasing demand. “NSFAS is definitely not bankrupt.”