The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is facing heightened criticism from the South African Union of Students (SAUS) for its failure to disburse funds to hundreds of first-year students, raising concerns about the impact on the upcoming academic year.
SAUS has attributed the payment delays to a new system implemented by NSFAS, resulting in numerous first-year students struggling to complete registrations and meet accommodation costs, as reported by SABC News.
In response, SAUS spokesperson Asive Dlanjwa has called for a temporary halt to first-year student registrations until funding issues are resolved. Dlanjwa argues that this pause would ensure equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their financial circumstances.
“Pause registration so that you give everyone an equal opportunity, those that can afford and those that cannot afford. The most practical thing to do in all honesty would be to pause those registrations because you can’t even implement an imposed quota because there’s no legislation to impose quotas on the general admission of students,” Dwanjla emphasized.
Conversely, NSFAS has shifted blame onto universities, accusing them of tardiness in submitting registration data, as reported by The Daily Maverick. The financial aid scheme has pledged to engage with universities to expedite a resolution.
NSFAS acknowledges the potential impact of late submission of student allowances and has set a deadline for universities to submit the details of all eligible students by March 31, 2024.
“Universities will not be permitted to change allowance types submitted within a particular academic term without the change being approved by NSFAS prior to such a claim being submitted, and the necessary budgetary approval obtained,” they asserted.
The Portfolio Committee of Higher Education has expressed grave concern over NSFAS’s failure to settle outstanding allowances, warning that it could have a ripple effect on student registration for the 2024 academic year.
Committee Chairperson Nompendulo Mkhatshwa urged NSFAS to address these issues urgently, emphasizing the potential impact on student registration in the upcoming academic year.
Despite NSFAS setting a self-imposed deadline of January 15 to pay all 20,000 outstanding allowances, only 9,128 payments have been made, leaving 11,000 unsettled allowances to be addressed in the 2024 academic year. With over 1.4 million applications received for funding this academic year, NSFAS faces mounting challenges as it strives to meet the financial needs of the growing student population.