The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will not be opening applications for 2019 on Wednesday, August 1 as planned after a directive from Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor.
“In line with the directive from Minister Pandor, Minister of Higher Education and Training, the 2019 application process, which was due to open on August 1, 2018, is currently on hold until further notice,” the NSFAS stated on Sunday, in response to a newspaper article.
On Sunday City Press reported that Pandor had ordered that the funding be put on hold until the NSFAS’s 2018 processes were properly concluded.
“The department will investigate all business processes at [the NSFAS], and this will commence in August,” read part of Pandor’s letter to the board.
Pandor has expressed concern about the reliability of the confirmed registration numbers, problems with payments to sBux and non-sBux institutions and the slow pace of processing applications and payments.
NSFAS stated its side of the issue in a statement on July 29, starting by explaining that on December 16, 2017, the government announced it would be phasing in fully-subsidised, free higher education and training for students from poor and working-class households.
This meant the NSFAS had to quickly change its plans and systems for 2018, to accommodate the new policy and address problems they were already dealing with.
The NSFAS said 2018 funding decisions for applications received had been completed and it had communicated the funding decisions to higher education institutions for more than 400 000 university and Technical Vocational Education and Training students, including returning students.
More than 20 000 applications with no supporting documents had not yet been finalised so a specific platform was created for these specific students to upload their missing documents. The processes were being fast-tracked, as were any appeals received.
The NSFAS said it had disbursed allowances to more than 365 000 students through the institution and sBux channels.
There are also 70 338 first-time entering students who have not yet signed their NSFAS Bursary Agreements (NBA) or Schedule of Particulars, and 29 610 students whose registration data was received recently.
The closing date for all students to sign their NBA was July 31, 2018.
Disbursements would only be done for students that have signed and senior students that qualified for renewal will automatically be generated for payment with no new NBA.
The NSFAS said this meant all students who had not signed their agreements would not receive any allowances.