NSFAS has suspended 2019 applications until further notice.
The national Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has halted applications for funding for the 2019 academic year until further notice because of an administrative logjam within the scheme.
NSFAS said the halted application process would not negatively affect matriculants and students who intend to apply for funding in 2019.
NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo said the process has been stopped for now in order for the scheme to sort out the 2018 backlog.
According to Mamabolo, more than 20 000 applications for the 2018 year have not been finalised due to applicants not making available supporting documents. As many as 70 338 first-time entering students for 2018 have not yet signed their NSFAS bursary contracts even though they have received proof of success for their application.
Mamabolo told Wits Vuvuzela that if NSFAS funds these students without supporting documents, it would result in reckless funding decisions. To avoid this, NSFAS has since re-opened the online platform for students to upload supporting documents.
“The issues identified are receiving urgent attention. NSFAS board and management, in partnership with the institutions, are working around the clock to ensure that all funded students receive their contracts,” said Mamabolo. “Students are encouraged to sign these contracts and ensure that all funded students receive their allowances [timeously],” he said.
In future, allowances will only be paid to students that have a signed contract, said Mamabolo, and for senior students that qualify for renewal, payment will be automatically generated with no new contract.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for the minister of higher education and training, Lunga Ngqengelele, has refuted reports that it was minister Naledi Pandor who ordered the 2019 NSFAS process to be halted.
“It’s not minister’s rights to make such decision on behalf of NSFAS. The minister only suggested to NSFAS board to pause the process for a while and sort out all outstanding issues before they burden the system with 2019 applications,” Ngqengelele told Wits Vuvuzela.
He added that Pandor had also suggested to NSFAS that they upgrade their technological system in order to speed up the application process.
“The current NSFAS system is not talking to universities adequately. It’s unfair that students have to wait for months, and some a year, to receive their application outcomes,” Ngqengelele added.
Wits University chief financial officer Prakash Desai said it was positive that the higher education department got involved at this early stage as it would make the 2019 application process smoother.
“The university is currently assisting students who didn’t meet NSFAS criteria and those that applied after NSFAS applications had already closed, through hardship fund such as the discretionary fund,” Desai said.
Applications for 2019 were meant to open on July 25. NSFAS says no new date has been determined.
FEATURED IMAGE: A new date for applications to be communicated. Photo: Takalani Sioga
Wits Vuvuzela, Student win case against NSFAS, April 26.