CAPE TOWN - In efforts to start the 2022 academic year smoothly and prevent student protests, the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will review their system to provide real-time funding eligibility decisions.
About 1.1 million students have enrolled within the country’s public universities for the next academic year. First time entering enrolments are expected to tally 208 299 nationally.
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and NFAS, joined by student unions, briefed the Portfolio Committee of Higher Education yesterday about preparations for the 2022 academic year.
NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa said a shortfall of about R10 billion in its student funding for the 2022 academic year is expected.
“Poverty levels have grown and consequently unemployment levels have also grown, this has a huge impact on our funding base and ability to fund prospective students.
“The big challenge is that we don’t have mechanisms to reject students who qualify. If we cannot get this R10 billion then there are no funding decisions that can be made and the consequences will be very dire for the sector. Discussions are underway at DHET and National Treasury to source the required funds,” said Khosa.
About 264 545 applications have been received for next year, 165 908 for students from families supported by SASSA and 606 for people with disabilities.
NSFAS Chief Operations Officer (COO), Nthuseng Mphahlele said: “One of the areas that have been reviewed extensively are the processes and enabling technologies centered around the organisation’s ability to assess, confirm, and communicate eligibility decisions to students. The new system will be capable of providing real-time funding eligibility decisions for students that are first time entrants to tertiary education and are linked to SASSA grant funding. The balance of approximately 35% of students will go through the normal evaluation process.”
DHET director-general Dr Nkosinathi Sishi said the Central Application Clearing House (CACH) 2022 will be implemented through the CAS Pilot in collaboration with the Central Application Office.
“CACH is a sign-up service that will run from January 22, the day after the release of the NSC results until the end of March. It will operate as a referral system for applicants who have not been able to access a study place. This is also to ensure that students do not become victims of bogus institutions,” said Sishi.
SA Union of Students (Saus) Secretary General, Lukhanyo Daweti said they were happy with NFAS presentation which spoke to some of their concerns and consultations would continue about other answered issues due to time.
“This year the financial aid funding decisions were issued exactly on eve of the start of 2021 academic year and Saus was calling for an improved approach for next year. Some funding decisions can still be issued within this year while students are awaiting their final matric results,” said Daweti.