The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is currently holding stakeholder consultations on the proposed eligibility criteria and conditions for financial aid to be effective from the 2022 academic year.
Some transitional arrangements, NSFAS said, would be implemented in 2023.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the entity noted that NSFAS Act 56 of 1999 mandates the Board to develop criteria and conditions for the granting of bursaries to eligible students, in consultation with Higher Education, Science, and Innovation Minister, amongst other provisions.
“The Board believes that for NSFAS to be an effective and efficient provider of financial aid in a sustainable and responsive manner, all stakeholders must be engaged. It is for this reason that for the first time ever, NSFAS is consulting all the relevant stakeholders on the proposed funding guidelines.
“The stakeholders that are being consulted include the student leadership, university vice-chancellors, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college principals, some spheres of government and others.
“All the inputs of these stakeholders will be considered in the final document that will be presented to the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation for consideration,” NSFAS said.
NSFAS said under normal circumstances, it would not have communicated to the public until the consultative process has been concluded and Higher Education, Science, and Innovation Minister having applied his mind on the proposed reforms.
The entity said, however, that the current consultation process that is underway for the proposed 2022 policy changes, has not been concluded.
“More stakeholders in the higher education sector are being consulted [and] all stakeholders are given an opportunity to make inputs, and the process is on-going. All inputs will be considered, and recommendations will be made to the Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation.”
Proposed 75% progression rule
Explaining the proposed 75% progression rule, which was reported in the media early this week, the entity said the proposed policy is aimed at encouraging students to pass their courses and/or modules, and just with “the pass mark”.
“The proposed policy, if implemented, would only apply as of the 2023 academic year, and would not be applied to students who entered higher education for the first time, also referred to as FTEN students. This is in recognition of the transition that many students make from high school to university.
“It should be noted that NSFAS funds students that would not otherwise be able to access higher education to ensure that they qualify and ultimately contribute to the economy.
“Therefore, this progression criteria is aimed at ensuring that students complete their qualifications within the allowable timeframe to ensure return on investment and to provide more opportunities to deserving students,” NSFAS said.
It said all other matters contained in the proposed funding guidelines, including student accommodation, are subject to consultative processes.
“All these policy considerations are aimed at ensuring sustainability of the scheme and for the well-being of students, to ensure that they succeed.
“In this instance, the entity has the South African Union of Students on the proposed guidelines and as the entity, we are awaiting their submission,” NSFAS said.