Zero increase in number of students whose fees to be paid by NFSAS‚ says DA

Amid much fanfare about emergency grants and increased funding‚ there is no actual increase in the number of students whose fees will be paid out of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS) annual budget‚ according to the Democratic Alliance.

DA spokesperson for higher education Prof Belinda Bozzoli said on Monday that Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande had promised that the number of poor and working class students whose fees would be paid out of the NSFAS budget would be 405‚000 — 205‚000 at universities and 200‚000 at TVET colleges.

“However this is the same number of students he promised to support last year. The Minister has thus made clear that despite ANC neglect of the higher education system spilling over into uncontrollable student protests‚ his department will source enough funding to assist zero additional students as he promised to last year‚” Bozzoli said. 

She added that much had also been made by Nzimande of the R4.5 billion grant in emergency funding to the NSFAS.

“However‚ what the Minister has been very vague about is that the grant is only for students whose fees should have been paid for in 2013‚ 2014 and 2015 but were not due to inefficiencies in NSFAS.

“The R4.5 billion grant thus will only assist students whose fees should have been paid by NSFAS up to three years ago. While government attempts to play hero in this catastrophe‚ when it is in fact the villain‚ finally paying fees which it promised to pay up to three years ago.

“In the meantime‚ government has promised to increase NSFAS’s annual funding from R9.5 billion to only R10 billion. Minister Nzimande has also attempted to make this out as a milestone. It is from this R10 billion budget that the Minister has promised to support 405 000 students. While the Minister attempts to paint this as a great leap forward‚ this is exactly as many students as he promised to support last year‚” Bozzoli asserted.

“It is thus clear that despite plenty of lip service and talk shops‚ the Minister has no plan to increase the number of students supported by NSFAS and thus increase access to the universities to all those who cannot afford it.

“In particular‚ it seems the ANC government will continue to leave the ‘missing middle’ high and dry (those who are too poor to finance their own studies but too ‘wealthy’ to access NSFAS funding). And with an increase of precisely zero students to NSFAS’s promised coverage it appears that the ANC has no intention of increasing access to universities in the future‚” she added.