Universities to be paid nearly R1bn for historic student debt: Naledi Pandor

Higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor.
Higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor.
Image: Sunday Times / Simphiwe Nkwali

The department of higher education and training has allocated an additional R967m to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to settle historic debt owed to universities by 52,514 students.

"This is a significant contribution which will alleviate some of the debt owed to universities by students and is confirmation that government is sensitive to the plight of students from poor and working-class families," said higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor.

The department said the allocation was specifically for those students who were funded under the previous NSFAS scheme before significantly improved funding started in 2018.

According to 2018 funding support, students whose combined annual household income was less than R350,000 a year qualified for free education.

In the case of continuing NSFAS-funded students, Pandor said those whose total annual family income was less than R122,000 a year were required to fund part of their costs through family or own funding.

As a result, the amount of funding provided by NSFAS was sometimes insufficient to cover total actual fees and the cost of study, particularly at universities and programmes with high fees.

This resulted in students accruing debt with their institution despite being funded by NSFAS.

Pandor said this was the first phase of the assessment of the historical debt owed to universities.

"We have now concluded the first phase of the due diligence and found that 52,514 NSFAS-qualifying students who were registered for the 2018 academic year owed universities R967m," Pandor said.

It is anticipated that all the students funded through the old scheme would exit the system by the 2022 academic year.


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