14 January 2015
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had earmarked R9.5-billion in bursaries and loans for 2015, an increase from the R8.3-billion set aside in 2014, said Blade Nzimande, the higher education and training minister.
The NSFAS would fund 205 000 first-time entering and continuing eligible students at universities and 200 000 students at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, he said in Pretoria on 12 January.
"One of the most successful schemes established by government to assist students from poor disadvantaged families with academic ability is the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which provides loans and bursaries to students at all 26 public universities and 50 public TVET colleges throughout the country.
"In 2014, NSFAS provided student loans and bursaries totalling over R8.3-billion, which excluded the once-off allocation of R1-billion for the servicing of the 2013 shortfall of R700-million and 2014 shortfall of R300-million," he said.
In addition to the NSFAS funding, the National Skills Fund (NSF) would step in to make further allocations to students who would be studying towards critical skills programmes that were most needed for the growth of the economy.
"NSFAS has been allocated over R562.9-million for bursaries for scarce and critical skills for the current year from the NSF. This funding is made available through the financial aid offices in universities and students wishing to make use of these bursaries are advised to enrol for critical skills, which include science, commerce, health science, [and] engineering."
His department was committed to expanding access to and success in institutions of higher learning for students who had special needs. At TVET colleges, the government paid 80% of the programme cost of the disabled student's choice, with an additional allocation being made dependent on the type and severity of the disability.
In addition, NSFAS had earmarked R69.3-million in the 2015 academic year to provide financial aid to disabled students in universities, Nzimande added.
Apply early for tertiary studies
It was important for matriculants to be proactive and to apply for admission as early as possible, Nzimande said, adding that it was always a challenge if Grade 12 learners passed their exams without admission as previous practices, such as walk-in applications, had long been abolished.
To help pupils submit their applications on time, his department, in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education, had launched the "Apply now" campaign to create awareness of career options, study opportunities and application procedures for post-school education and training.
This campaign complemented the Career Development Services Helpline – on 0860 356 635 – and Khetha radio programmes, which ran on 10 SABC African languages radio stations, including Afrikaans; social media platforms; and career awareness events.
"The National Career Advice Portal provides access to career information on career pathways, occupations and relevant education and training opportunities," he said. His department was operating the Central Application Clearing House once again in 2015.
The clearing house call centre and website went live on 2 January. "The… service has been developed to assist learners who qualify for higher education studies, have applied for a space at an institution, but have not been offered a place at the institution of their choice after the matric results are released.
"It is also accessible to those learners who did not apply before the closing dates last year and now find that they are eligible for higher education studies. Learners looking for spaces in the university education system can contact the toll free call centre on 0800 356 635 or send an SMS with their name, ID and contact number to 49200, and they will be telephoned back free of charge," he said.