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Universities Implicated in NSFAS Allowance Delays

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Universities Implicated in NSFAS Allowance Delays

Universities Implicated in NSFAS Allowance Delays. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has pointed to universities as a contributing factor to the current delays in distributing student allowances and bursaries, affecting over a million students who benefit from the program. Various obstacles are hindering the timely access of funds for these students.

Challenges and Criticisms Directed at NSFAS

In recent weeks, concerns have arisen from students and stakeholders regarding multiple issues surrounding NSFAS. Primarily, there have been significant delays in disbursing student allowances, complications within the banking system, and allegations of improper defunding of eligible recipients.

Collaborative Efforts Urged to Address Student Issues

To address these challenges, NSFAS has called upon universities and student leadership to collaborate on finding solutions for the predicaments faced by students. Ernest Khosa, the chairperson of the NSFAS board, made this appeal during a press briefing held on Monday. This initiative aims to engage higher education institutions and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in constructive discussions about resolving the existing issues.

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University Involvement in the Problem

Ernest Khosa noted that universities cannot be absolved from playing a role in the current situation. He emphasized that a significant factor contributing to the challenges, particularly related to the direct payment system, is universities’ failure to adhere to the requirement of timely submission of registration data. This omission, either due to lateness or inaccuracies in the data, hampers NSFAS’s ability to process payments for students whose registration status is pending confirmation.

NSFAS’s Call for Collaboration and Payments Breakdown

Khosa reaffirmed NSFAS’s commitment to fostering a collaborative relationship with higher education institutions and TVET colleges. Additionally, NSFAS shared a breakdown of allowance disbursements for August 2023: R608,601,526 was paid to qualifying beneficiaries at public universities, while R383,671,046 was disbursed to TVET colleges. Notably, 86% of the total NSFAS beneficiaries, accounting for 355,270 students, successfully authenticated themselves and received their allowances.

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Authentication Challenges and Solutions

NSFAS acknowledges that a portion of students faced difficulties in authenticating themselves, often due to connectivity issues. Teams have been dispatched to campuses to assist students in completing the authentication and verification process. Failure to complete this process could lead to delays in receiving the allowances.

Challenges in Direct Payment System Implementation

The introduction of the new direct payment system has not been without its challenges. High internet traffic, particularly during registration periods, has resulted in technical glitches affecting access to the system. Data integration issues with institutions and system overload due to simultaneous student registrations have been identified as the main contributors to these problems.

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Enhanced Verification Process and Defunding

Khosa explained that NSFAS had encountered problems where undeserving students were erroneously funded, prompting a reassessment of its verification process. Collaborations with third-party entities, such as the South African Revenue Service (SARS), state security agencies, and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), have been established to ensure accurate and up-to-date information. As a result, 45,927 students were defunded due to submission of falsified or fraudulent documents.

Reevaluation and Funding Outcomes

Following reevaluation, 14,703 students had their funding reinstated, while 31,224 remained unsuccessful. The latter group consisted mainly of first-time students whose household income exceeded 350,000 and returning students who did not meet the required academic progression, which mandates a passing grade in 50% of registered modules, or exceeded the N+ rule.

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The N+ rule stipulates the maximum duration for which funding is provided to students pursuing a qualification. Currently, the N+2 rule is implemented, granting students funding for the standard duration of the qualification “N,” along with an additional two years.

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