NSFAS announces R3.8bn for ‘missing middle’ students


Umamah Bakharia

Minister Ndzimande 1251 Dv

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has announced a new loan scheme for students who form part of the “missing middle” — those whose annual household income is between R350 000 and R600 000.

Previously, students were only eligible for NSFAS funding if their annual household income was below R350 000.

However, at a briefing in Tshwane on Sunday, Nzimande said NSFAS intended to change this through a new funding model.

“Government has committed the initial capitalisation fund, totalling R3.8 billion, to support the loan scheme in 2024. This amount comprises R1.5 billion from the National Skills Fund and Training Authorities [Setas]. This amount will cover 47% of the estimated 68 446 missing middle school students — that is, 31 884 of the 68 446 missing middle students,” said Nzimande

The first phase of the funding model will be implemented in 2024 with a budget of R3.8 billion while the second phase is expected to be implemented in 2025 with an estimated budget of R4.2 billion.

The second phase will be available for undergraduate and postgraduate students at public universities and colleges across South Africa. However, the student must sign a loan agreement with NSFAS.

According to Nzimande, the loan is expected to fund 70% of students studying science, maths and technology programmes, while only 30% would be for humanities programmes.

“Students will be supported for tuition, learning material and accommodation, and students who get above 70% on average and within the prescribed time, will get a 50% reduction [in loan repayments],” he said.

Recently, the minister capped the increase in fees at 4.5%.

The South African Union of Students has called for the removal of Nzimande after 20 000 students were not paid allowances in 2023 due to problems with the NSFAS funding system.

“For the first time since the advent of the scheme, almost 100 000 students wrote their end-year examinations in 2023 on empty stomachs without food, toiletries, sanitary products, transport and some even accommodation.

“This was all due to the deliberate attempts by the leadership and staff of NSFAS to collapse that entity with the support and complicity of [Nzimande],” said union president Yandisa Ndzoyiya.

Nzimande’s announcement of the new funding model comes as NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa “voluntarily” tabled a notice of 30 days’ leave of absence to enable NSFAS to deal with the graft allegations against him contained in damning recordings released by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and an accompanying report.

In a statement, NSFAS hailed Khosa’s decision to take leave as “responsible” and added: “The board would like to emphasise that this decision should not be interpreted as an admission of guilt on the part of the chairperson.”

Earlier in January, Outa released voice recordings of two meetings between Khosa and a representative of a service provider, telling how service providers allegedly paid millions of rand to Nzimande and Khosa in kickbacks for tenders.

According to Outa, the payments were made in return for tenders and “protection” for service providers.

But NSFAS has dismissed the claims and added that an independent legal firm would be appointed to look into the “veracity of the allegations” against Khosa. The firm would submit its findings within 30 days of its appointment, it said.

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