The numbers prove it: Students prefer universities to TVET colleges

04 December 2018 - 16:07
By Nonkululeko Njilo
Naledi Pandor
Image: FILE Naledi Pandor

Higher education minister Naledi Pandor has revealed that only 24% of applications received by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the 2019 academic year are from pupils planning to enrol at TVET colleges, with the 76% balance of applications being for universities.

The revelation was made on Tuesday after the NSFAS officially closed the application period a day earlier.

Pandor said the scheme received over 400,000 applications between September 3 and December 3.

“On average, NSFAS received more than 3,200 applications a day over the period ... with the number reaching as high as 30,000 a day over the last two weeks," Pandor said.

“I am pleased that the 2019 application process has performed well in terms of systems, applications received, as well as user experience,” said Pandor.

While the application process was smooth, Pandor indicated that the 2018 academic year had been beset by a number of challenges.

“These included finalising funding decisions, addressing the 2017 academic year backlog, the non-payment and delays in the payment of allowances, and a weakness in data integration between NSFAS and institutions,” she said.

The delay in resolving these challenges had resulted in the scheme being placed under administration for 12 months since August 2018.

That decision led to the appointment of Dr Randall Carolissen as the administrator of the scheme. He was tasked with closing the 2017 and 2018 funding cycles to ensure that students who had qualified for the bursary scheme were confirmed for financial assistance and had received their allowances, said Pandor.

Carolissen also had the responsibility of developing effective plans for the 2019 funding cycle to ensure that student funding for the year worked without any hassles.

“I am pleased to report that NSFAS has made good progress in both these areas,” she said.

Of all the applicants, the majority were female (63%).

“A total of 34,413 applications received were Sassa recipients, who automatically qualified in terms of the financial qualification criteria and would be funded if admitted, and registered at a TVET college or university,” said the minister.

Across all the provinces, KZN had the most applications, with 91,523. However, the figure represents only 45% of the total number of pupils who wrote their national senior certificate exams in the province, according to Pandor.

The lowest number were from the Northern Cape with 2,573 applications, representing only 18.04% of the total number of pupils who wrote in the province, she said.

The scheme was evaluating all applications received.  

“This evaluation checks whether applicants are eligible for funding. The evaluation also verifies all the data received by students with third parties, i.e. Sars, home affairs, etc," said Pandor.

The scheme will communicate to students who meet the financial eligibility criteria and have received an academic offer via SMS or e-mail at the beginning of January, once academic results have been made available to the NSFAS.

“Funding is only confirmed once a student has met the financial eligibility criteria and is formally registered at a public TVET college or university for an approved funded programme,” Pandor said.

Successful students will receive bursary funding to cover their tuition fee for their registered programme and an allowance for learning materials

This year the NSFAS disbursed loans and bursaries of R22bn. This amount is expected to increase next year to about R32bn, which is estimated to fund about 400,920 TVET college students and 377,050 university students, said Pandor.

“NSFAS continues to play a critical role in the country as a key institution for government in redressing past discrimination and ensuring inclusivity and equal access to higher education for students from poor and working-class backgrounds, in line with the national development plan,” she said.