The South African government has pledged that education should be free for underprivileged and working-class students. Does this mean that they can help you fund your studies, and how can you get on board?
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is the South African government’s way of helping you pay for your studies. But what’s NSFAS? Let’s find out more about it and how you can apply.
What’s this NSFAS?
NSFAS was established by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Act (Act 56 of 1999) in order to provide student financial aid in the form of bursaries and loans. It receives funds from the government and then grants it to students – like YOU – so they can pay for their tertiary studies.
Wait. Is this a Loan or a Bursary?
Up until 2018, most of the money given out by NSFAS was actually a loan that you had to pay back once you finished your studies and started working. But, thanks to the SA government’s commitment to free education, all new and returning students applying for NSFAS from 2018 will have the opportunity to receive a full bursary for their remaining tertiary studies. This means that, if you qualify for NSFAS after 2018, you’ll receive free education for the duration of your studies!
There are also some full bursaries with specific requirements that are funded by NSFAS. Some of these include:
- The Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) bursary aimed at students studying towards vocational or occupational jobs at colleges.
- The Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme for aspiring teachers, who then get assigned a teaching post after their studies.
- Bursaries for students who want to study the critical and scarce skill of Social Work.
- The Disability Bursary Programme for students that struggle with disabilities.
To apply for these bursaries, you must submit the usual NSFAS application. Since these are bursaries, and not loans, students who get one of them will have no repayments after they finish studying.
Do I Qualify for NSFAS?
Usually, there are strict requirements for bursary or scholarship schemes, but don’t be discouraged! The South African government’s commitment to free education has made it a lot easier to qualify for NSFAS. Check out these requirements:
- You are a South African citizen
- Your household has a combined annual income of less than R350 000 per year
- You have applied for a course at a university/college and meet the entrance requirements
If you tick all of these boxes, what are you waiting for? Apply! If you don’t qualify, check out our other options on How to Fund Your Studies.
What do I need to I Apply?
Before you can apply with NSFAS, you have to get some paperwork together.
This might take some time, so make sure that you don’t leave it to the last minute! Here’s a list of the documents you need:
- Your South African ID or unabridged birth certificate
- IDs of your parents/guardians and everyone else living with you
- Parent’s letter of employment (not older than 3 months)
- Download and fully complete the consent forms
- Disability form if you have a disability
It’s important that all copies of these documents are certified, and you can do this at your nearest police station. Just be sure to take the original documents along with your application copies. Voila! You are ready to apply for NSFAS student financial aid.
Where can I Apply?
In this modern age, there are 2 official ways to apply for a NSFAS loan or bursary. You can apply online, or at your nearest National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) office which you can find here.
To apply online:
1) Go to the NSFAS website.
2) Use your cell phone number and email address to register as a myNSFAS user on the website.
3) Click the ‘Apply’ button to start filling in your online application – but remember that you first need to have all of your certified and scanned documents before you start your application.
To Apply at a NYDA Office:
1) Fetch a paper application form from the NYDA office.
2) Use black ink to fill in your application form, and write in capital letters.
3) Staple all of your certified documents to your application.
4) Then hand your completed application to an assistant who will then give you an ‘acknowledgement of receipt’ card with a barcode that matches one that is put onto your application.
So, when do I pay back the Loan?
Debt is something that everyone worries about and, for the most part, tries to avoid. But don’t worry! All students approved for a NSFAS bursary in and after 2018 can consider themselves debt free because your funding is in the form of a bursary and not a loan and therefore you will have no repayments.
Students who have already graduated under NSFAS approved loans before 2018 will still have to repay their loans. Repayments only start once you have a job and are earning at least R30 000 a year. There is also no set deadline on when you have to pay back your loan, BUT it does earn interest. Which means the longer you take to pay it back, the more money you will owe NSFAS in the long run. It’s important to pay back your loan because all of your repayments will go towards funding the studies of future students. Talk about paying it forward!
All the advice in the world will never help you until you help yourself.
~ Fred van Amburgh
So make sure you check out the NSFAS website, application dates and deadlines. There’s a chance that funding your studies is only an application away!