Digital innovation at the heart of student funding

Standard Bank works hard to find new ways to help young people finance their education

Standard Bank understands the challenges facing young South Africans.
Standard Bank understands the challenges facing young South Africans.
Image: Supplied/Standard Bank

A lack of funding is one of the main reasons many talented, young South Africans are precluded from getting a tertiary education. 

In the right hands, an education is one of the most powerful tools we have, and a good education can help those who are marginalised lift themselves out of their circumstances to create a productive life. 

Financial institutions can help young people overcome obstacles to education through digital innovation. Standard Bank understands the challenges and works hard to find new ways to help young people finance their education. 

“Due to the abrupt shift away from the classroom, many students could not access their online classes on platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. In 2020, we adapted our student loan offering to cover the cost of equipment and textbooks without the student having to apply for tuition as the primary reason for the loan. 

Globally, online studies have become the new norm so we customised our offering in line with this shifting trend,” says Magdeline Thidiela, head of client solutions, retail personal lending at Standard Bank. 

“Prospective students can finance their full-time or part-time studies by applying online for a student loan at an interest rate of 7%. This will cover their registration and tuition fees — based on the amount they can afford, their accommodation up to R60,000 a year, their textbooks and equipment. 

“Standard Bank also allows students to increase their student loan limit online,” says Thidiela. “Students who want to continue their studies should not be penalised. Instead, we should be finding ways to make their journey easier, and our online extension option is an example of how we are doing this.”

Not all prospective students can afford to take out a loan which is why Standard Bank launched Feenix Trust, an NPO, in June 2017. The online crowdsourcing platform makes tertiary education more accessible for economically disadvantaged students. 

Feenix enables university students in need of funding for current or historic debt to create profiles and request donations towards their education journey. As a crowdfunding platform, Feenix enables individuals and businesses to take action to solve social problems. 

In its first three years, Feenix has raised more than R35m, providing support for more than 1,000 students. Standard Bank has extended its sponsorship of Feenix beyond the three years to which it originally committed.

To further fulfil its vision to remove barriers to education, Feenix launched the #CapTheGap initiative in May 2020. The trust worked with universities to identify the final year and postgraduate students who were at risk of being left out in the move to online learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Individuals and corporates responded to the crowdfunding initiative and raised R3.5m, equipping 403 students on and off the Feenix platform with data, digital devices and food. 

“Standard Bank is committed to changing the lives and fulfilling the educational aspirations of young South Africans. This has been fuelled by innovation and the agility to finding new ways to partner with our young people to overcome financial obstacles,” Thidiela says. 

This article was paid for by Standard Bank.