Wits NSFAS students left hanging

Despite spokesperson of NSFAS Kagisho Mamabolo canceling ‘one on one’ talk hosted by the Wits School of Social Sciences Council on August 29, students were able to tabulate questions related to 2017 financial aid to the council in his absence.

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NSFAS clears confusion over “withdrawn” funding

A twitter storm brewed last weekend after a number of Wits students alleged that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had withdrawn funding offers with scant explanation for its actions.

They addressed their heated allegations to Wits SRC Treasurer General Thando Mntambo, who immediately took up their grievances and included @myNSFAS in the twitter conversation.

“We have so far received numerous emails from students confirming that this is indeed happening,” said Mntambo when contacted by Wits Vuvuzela.

“We first have to understand the issue before tackling it, so the first thing being done is the collection of the database to scope the immensity of the problem while in the interim we are pursuing the channels available to us to try and get answers to this question, after which we will do what is necessary to solve the problem,” Mntambo said.

Sharon Ndlovu, a second year BA Law student, was one of the students who approached the SRC via twitter.

“I applied last year through Wits and in January I got a notification that my application was received,” Ndlovu wrote.

Ndlovu said that her application status was changed to “financial eligibility evaluated” but then last Friday, February 17, she got an SMS informing her that her application was unsuccessful due to the institution she chose. The correspondence, which has been seen by Wits Vuvuzela, advised her to apply to a TVET college and “your application may be reconsidered”.

When Ndlovu called NSFAS to query this they sang a different tune.

“They said they are short of funds,” Ndlovu said.

NSFAS Spokesperson, Kagisho Mamabolo, clarified the confusion to Wits Vuvuzela: “All returning students who received NSFAS in 2016 were advised not to apply online because they were going to be funded automatically should they pass 50% of their modules.”

He said that those who didn’t follow the guidelines and applied online had created duplication of their details on the system as NSFAS had made advanced arrangements with universities to enrol them without having to apply.

“Therefore the system automatically rejected their application because they are already funded and are in class,” said Mamabolo.

“They shouldn’t panic and should proceed to study as normal,” he said.

However, all returning students who did not have NSFAS in the previous years (including 2016) and had applied for 2017, and were unsuccessful, are advised to appeal, not enrol in a TVET College, he said.

Sharon Ndlovu is a new applicant, and since the clarification by NSFAS, has appealed the rejection of her application.

Students have until February 28 to appeal their declined applications for funding.

NSFAS teams up with Sars to track down defaulters

Defaulting students will have their contact details handed over by tax authorities, Sars to NSFAS for loan repayment purposes.  

NSFAS-Logo

 

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says it will use personal information obtained from the SA Revenue Service (Sars) to chase people who not heed to their call for repayments of their loans when they get jobs.

Last week, SARS last week permits NSFAS to have access to further non-financial information of former students with unpaid student loans.

“NSFAS will make contact with your employer to confirm employment and then contact you (the debtor) to discuss repayments in line with the signed loan agreement,” said NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo.

The information of those former NSFAS scheme beneficiaries registered with Sars will reveal the ID numbers, addresses, contact details and employers’ names. Sars revealed last week that the new provision falls the Tax Administration Act, which allows SARS to provide other non-financial information such as addresses and other contact details.

Mamabolo said defaults in repayments of loans prompted this move.  “Most debtors were not heeding our call for them to inform us as soon as they find jobs, leading to us struggling to confirm if they are working or not.  Sars will be able to assist us with that information, in cases where the concerned individuals are not coming forward,” said Mamabolo.

Students are required to start repaying their loans if they earn R30 000 or more annually.  Payments start at 3% of debtors’ annual salary, increasing to a maximum of 8% when the salary reaches R59 300 or more per year.

NSFAS said action will be taken against former students who fail to repay while employed as the scheme is a registered credit provider.

“The scheme reserves the right to follow the normal debt recovery process which may lead to action taken against those who fail to repay loans even though they can afford to do so,” said Mamabolo.

Two months ago, minister of higher education and training, Blade Nzimande, said in parliament that NSFAS had spent R41.1-billion in loans and R20.4-billion in bursaries between 2000 and 2015.

In the wake of #FeeMustFall protests, the government raised its contribution towards NSFAS from R6.5-billion in 2015/16 to R11.4-billion this year.  Part of the amount aimed at helping the “missing middle” students, whose parents earned over the required maximum to qualify for the loan, still couldn’t afford the fees.

Tax records, however will not be part of the information given to NSFAS.

 

Related articles:

Wits Vuvuzela; NSFAS repayment for what? 

Wits Vuvuzela; SRC aims to raise one million rand for excluded NSFAS students

Wits Vuvuzela; Wits management and SRC reach agreement on NSFAS