Funding shortfall, 2-week extension: What Blade Nzimande said about NSFAS

Dr Blade Nzimande. Image credit: Flickr/GovernmentZA

Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Dr Blade Nzimande provided an update on Monday (March 8) about National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding decisions for 2021 prospective students.

In his speech, Nzimande acknowledged that NSFAS had not yet confirmed funding eligibility for first-time entering students wishing to study in public universities in 2021.

This uncertainty has caused anxiety among prospective students because most universities have already begun their registration processes and induction programmes, he added.

What Blade Nzimande said about NSFAS

NSFAS facing funding shortfall

The Minister said NSFAS is facing a shortfall on its funding for 2021, “which means that it has been unable to confirm funding for new university students.”

He added, “There are [a] few reasons why we are having this shortfall. First is because of COVID-19. We had to continue to pay NSFAS allowances even at the time when universities were closed, as part of students’ access to multimodal teaching and learning. This means we had an extended academic year which we did not allocate additional money for.

“Secondly, we had budget cuts across government departments. Thirdly, because of the deteriorating economic situation, where many NSFAS applicants who were not previously meeting the funding requirements for NSFAS now do. Due to COVID-19, a majority of them qualify because their parents lost their jobs in the process.”

Nzimande said public finance regulations and policies, including the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), do not permit NSFAS to commit funding without the requisite budget to support that commitment.

NSFAS confirms funding for returning students

“I am however pleased to formally announce and confirm today that NSFAS is going to be funding all returning NSFAS beneficiaries students who meet the academic and other relevant criteria for continuing their studies,” Nzimande said.

He added that his Department will present “policy and funding options” to Cabinet this week for inclusion in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS).

Consultations with universities are also underway and the government will finalise funding guidelines for universities for 2021 as soon as Cabinet takes a decision.

Registration period extended

It wasn’t all bad news for first-time entering students, however. Such students now have a reprieve as the government finalises funding options for NSFAS.

“We have agreed with all our universities that they will extend their registration period for first-time entering students for two weeks, so that none of the first-time entering students are disadvantaged by the delay in the finalisation of this matter,” Nzimande said.

To read Minister Blade Nzimande’s speech about NSFAS allowance, click here.

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