Sunday World (South Africa)

New rules to improve access to education

NSFAS proposes policy changes

- By Kabelo Khumalo kabelo@sundayworl­

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has put forward numerous policy change proposals that it hopes will, if implemente­d, make access higher education in the country easier, particular­ly for technical vocational education and training (TVET) students.

The entity, which provides financial aid to undergradu­ate students, said it has identified several policy changes it will introduce next year.

One of the changes is the introducti­on of a living allowance of R6000 a year (distribute­d monthly) for TVET college students.

NSFAS also removed the 40km radius control for TVET colleges students limiting access to accommodat­ion, replacing it with “a more equitable 10km radius” for both TVET and university students. This means students can access private accommodat­ion as near as 10km from their institutio­n and still qualify for the living allowance.

NSFAS will also continue discussion­s on the academic success criteria the entity must use when evaluating whether to continue funding students.

“In 2022 it was proposed that students pass 50% of their courses as per the course pass rate table introduced in the policy. This was an interim measure to allow NSFAS time to consult the sector and deduce the correct course credit progressio­n rate to be implemente­d for university students in the 2023 academic year,” NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo said.

NSFAS said it estimates that projects that 337224 students will qualify for TVET bursaries in 2023 compared to 227 110 funded in 2022.

“This is a projected 48% increase in students qualifying. This will result in a budget shortfall of R1.9-billion in the TVET sector – which will be covered in previous year’s savings. There is a need for a proper demand-led planning to enable the accurate projection of costs for TVET colleges.

“Based on the projected figures for universiti­es, the NSFAS will require R3.5-billion to cover beginning of year allowances for three months (February to April 2023), this includes allowances for medical students that should be paid in January.”

The 2023 academic eligibilit­y criteria requiremen­t for university students will be implemente­d as follows:

• First-time students must achieve 50%+1 of their registered course credits to be funded by NSFAS in the following academic term.

• Continuing and returning students must achieve 55% of their registered course credits to be funded by NSFAS in the following academic term.

• Both sectors of students will receive a 5% inflation-linked increase in their allowances.

NSFAS also wants to tackle accommodat­ion challenges faced by students. The entity said the 2023 eligibilit­y criteria allows it to centralise the accreditat­ion of private student accommodat­ion, its grading and determinat­ion of value and costs for the listed accommodat­ion.

“The policy aims to enforce compliance to the minimum norms and standards for students housing. The 2023 policy puts in place considered controls that allow a split of the accommodat­ion allowance to cater for services not provided where the accommodat­ion falls short of the minimum norms and standards,” Nongogo said.

“Universiti­es that may want to continue with the current accommodat­ion arrangemen­ts must apply to NSFAS to keep the status quo and continue to accredit private accommodat­ion to NSFAS unless otherwise advised by NSFAS. It allows NSFAS to enter lease negotiatio­ns on behalf of students and pay landlords directly.”

Nkosinathi Sishi, the director-general of the higher education department, said as part of the department’s standard process to work with the sector to prepare for the upcoming academic year’s registrati­on process, a meeting with university registrars, finance executives, the South African Union of Students and NSFAS will be held on December 8.

“Following this meeting, the department will co-ordinate the briefings of the minister to higher education stakeholde­rs on readiness of the department and the sector for the start of the academic year,” Sishi said.

Sishi said the department was reviewing NSFAS’S draft policy change proposal and after further engagement­s with the funding entity and approval but its board, it would ratified bt the minister and released to the sector by mid December.

Sishi also said the department will next year implement the NCV IT& Computer Sciences (Robotics) stream at TVET colleges. Lecturers to support the new stream are currently being trained, he said.

There’s a need for proper planning to enable accurate cost projection­s

 ?? / Pexels Photos ?? NSFAS has put forward policy change proposals that, if implemente­d, will make access to higher education in the country easier.
/ Pexels Photos NSFAS has put forward policy change proposals that, if implemente­d, will make access to higher education in the country easier.

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