Those wishing to apply for the 2022 National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) can do so from November 2 until January 7, 2022.
Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande made the announcement on Thursday and urged those hoping to study at public universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges to apply on time.
Addressing the media in a press briefing attended by NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo, officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training and student leadership, Dr Nzimande said the demand for student funding had increased now more than ever, owing to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
NSFAS funding had increased from R5.9-billion in the 2014/15 financial year to about R35-billion in 2020/21.
“This is a significant contribution by government to supporting access to higher education and the success of students from poor and working class backgrounds. I am very proud of the achievements of the NSFAS,” Nzimande said.
Government will categorise applying students as first-time and returning students who are also South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) beneficiaries; first-time and returning students who are not SASSA beneficiaries; and students living with disabilities.
Applications are also open to individuals who are already enrolled at institutions, but are without funding and who qualify financially for NSFAS funding.
Nzimande said the NSFAS board had given its assurances that the 2022 application process would handle student applications efficiently and seamlessly.
According to Nzimande, NSFAS funding for university and TVET college bursaries for poor and working class students increased by 107% from R20-billion in 2018 to R42-billion in 2021.
The 2020 academic year saw 751 858 fully-subsidised third year students, 489 912 of whom were university students and 261 404 of whom were TVET college students.
The total number of university students funded, including funding from other government departments, increased by 45.4% from 346 966 students funded in 2018 to 504 366 students funded in 2020.
“These indeed are not small numbers in terms of government assistance to students at university and TVET colleges. In essence what I would like to say is that indeed there is free higher education for the children of the working class and the poor in this country,” Nzimande said.
Sharing the overall student demographic profile he said university and TVET college students in 2020 comprised of 92.9% African students, 4.2% Coloured students, 0.9% white students, 0.7% Indian students and 1.4 % others.
Nzimande pointed out that NSFAS had been particularly effective at targeting female students, who constituted 61.5% of all students funded – in 2018 this was 61.4%.
He highlighted this as a huge achievement in terms of affirming women in post school education and training.
However, the Minister noted a 26% decrease in funding for students with disabilities and promised to give it focused attention.
In the 2020 academic year, NSFAS funded 1 421 university students with disabilities compared to 1 921 students in the prior year.
Students with disabilities who qualify for funding fall within the maximum threshold of up to R600 000 of combined gross family income a year.
Nzimande stressed that the system had been improved and assured students that the new changes would make the application process smooth and glitch-free.