NSFAS would struggle to cater for 'missing middle' in 2018
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme has told MPs that it could encounter difficulties if President Jacob Zuma decides it should also cater for the so-called "missing middle" in the 2018 academic year.
This is according to the NSFAS CEO‚ Steven Zwane‚ who was briefing parliament's select committee on education on their state of readiness for the next financial year.
Zwane said the NSFAS was ready to provide financial assistance to the usual number of financially needy students.
He told MPs that so far the student financial aid scheme has completed 192‚984 applications for the 2018 year.
Of these‚ the vast majority are black and female wanting to attend universities.
Only 18‚326 of the completed applications were for Technical and Vocational Education Training colleges.
On average‚ the NSFAS funds a total of about 500‚000 students per year.
Zwane told the committee that the fund was ready to disburse funds to these new and returning students. However‚ he said should the so-called "missing middle" be included in their mandate as a result of discussions around fee-free education and the Heher commission report‚ this would have "huge financial implications" for the organisation and would require them to have more people on board to be able to administer these.
In an interview after his presentation Zwane said: "We are ready with the current status‚ we are ready to fund the up to 500‚000 students that we typically fund on an annual basis. We are however concerned that this could be impacted by the announcement of the president of free education."
He said that if the qualifying household income was adjusted to between R150‚000 and R350‚000 "we can modify our systems and be able to meet that need".
"We would however need to engage differently if that figure moves to R600‚000. That is a really big impact for us from a people side‚ a process side and a systems side."
Zwane said NSFAS had written to the minister of higher education to engage on the Heher commission report‚ which had created some "discomfort at NSFAS".
The report questions the need for NSFAS in its proposed system of bank-backed loans and suggests that perhaps it only deals with students going to TVET colleges.
"We are concerned by a number of submissions made in the report. To only focus on the TVET colleges‚ we didn't understand the merits of that‚" he said.
He said the question of whether "there is a necessity for NSFAS to continue to exist caused a little bit of discomfort to the team in the office so we need to engage them quite a bit".
"The way the report was issued and engaged‚ we should have been given the opportunity to make pronouncement and contribute to the process‚" he said.
Source: TMG Digital.