Introduction to Financial aid at Rhodes University

Financial aid to support your studies is hard to come by; you’ll need a helping hand. To get you started, here’s a brief introduction to financial aid at Rhodes.

For many families, sending their children to University is simply not an option. University is incredibly expensive, and becomes even more so when one adds up the costs of residence (or digs), as well as all the other small expensives such as printing costs and so forth. For many students, attending well- know Universities such as Rhodes University is only a dream. Rhodes University Vice- Chancellor, Dr Mabizela recently wrote this article, outlining the issues around middle-class students facing funding issues. While the high costs of University means that not every student will be able to study, Rhodes University and the National Student Funding Scheme (NSFAS) offer financial options when it comes to funding your studies.

Getting started

Financial aid at Rhodes University is offered to South African citizens who are in financial need and who show academic potential. It is however, important to be aware that the size of the award is determined by the family income (which is assessed according to the NSFAS Mean Test). Families with an annual gross income in excess of R180,000 per year, are usually not eligible to apply towards financial aid.

Rhodes University asserts that although there is no closing date for applications towards financial aid from students for their first year of study, the funds are limited. Thus, the earlier an application is submitted to the financial aid department, the more likely the student, depending on their situation will be awarded financial aid.

How does it work?

So you’ve been granted financial aid – now what? This basically means that the University is giving you money for you to achieve your degree. Thus, your job is to pass your exams and if possible, get the best results that you can – since the higher marks you achieve the more likely you are to receive follow-up funding. Students need to obtain a 75% subject pass rate in the final exams to be automatically eligible for financial aid for the following year.

When does it happen?

While you may have been granted financial aid at the beginning of the year, the value of the NSFAS award will be credited to the students’ fee accounts during the third term, once all bursaries have been awarded and paid in the students’ fee accounts. This is to ensure that the loans awarded are as low as possible. It is only in the third term that these amounts are claimed from NSFAS as to allow for bursaries and other funding to be credited to the student’s account as once a claim has been submitted these funds cannot be reallocated.

Up to 40% of a student’s NSFAS loan will be converted to a bursary based on the student’s subject pass rate at the end of the year. In other words – cut that debt, and perform as well as you can! This bursary will be credited to the student’s NSFAS account during April of the following year of the receipt of the loan.

Remember that if your student account has not been settled by the time that results are released at end of the year, the Financial Aid Office will not be able to access these results and will not be able to award Financial Aid for the following year. Thus, you need to ensure that your student fee account is settled in good time.

I’m on Financial Aid – how do I deal with my student account?

Your student account can be seen when you log onto ROSS. All the small fees such as printing credits as well as sports and society charges will appear here. If you have been granted financial aid, you are eligible to sign up for two societies for free. Choose these societies well! Many societies are very expensive and if you’re not going to attend the events, then rather don’t sign up.

In addition, if you know you, or your family will be unable to pay off your student account at the end of the year- make sure you keep your account as low as possible!

How?

  • Rather than buying printing credit online and wasting your printing – pay printing in cash at the library. It’s easy to purchase R50 after R50 of printing fees and at the end of the year, see that amount add up to something you cannot pay!
  • Skipping meals? If you know you’ll be missing a few meals in the dining hall, make sure that you unbook those meals on ROSS. Financial Aid students are permitted to unbook meals to the value of R1500.00 each semester. While financial aid students are not allowed to withdraw that money, it can count against your student account! Unbook meals you won’t be eating to pay for your printing charges.

Other Options:

Often, Rhodes University can only offer a minimal amount of funding, and with recent issues facing NSFAS (see here and here) it is not always a certainty that there will be funding available for students.

This is however, not the end! Every year hundreds of bursaries and scholarships are made available to students who perform well, or are proven to have the financial need for funding. Rhodes University makes many of these scholarships and bursaries available to students to apply towards in an email and many more can be found through a quick search online.

My Advice:

Never feel embarrassed to ask. Ask if you are unsure about an amount on your account, or if you are concerned about your funding. Ask your department if they know of any bursaries or scholarships available and apply towards as many funding opportunities you may come across.