CAPE TOWN, A total of 408,000 applications for full study funding have been received from South African students, officials of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) say.

Briefing the Parliamentary Committee on Higher Education here Wednesday, the officials said more than 90 per cent of the received applications had been validated.

A total of 258,000 applications were received from those wanting to study at universities while 149,000 potential students applied for bursaries to study at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.

The NSFAS has confirmed and communicated its funding for 117,000 students while a further 113,000 students have been assessed to meet funding criteria, pending confirmation of admission from the institutions they seek to enrol in.

The new funding arrangement, which will see students from households with an annual income of less than 350,000 Rand (about 29,670 US dollars) receive free higher education, will be phased-in over a five-year period for university students with the full cost of study being paid for students entering university for the first time.

Loans for existing students with an annual household income of less than 350,000 Rand would be converted to bursaries, in line with a new mandate by government.

Students who are admitted to TVET colleges and who meet the admission criteria in terms of performance and who are from a family earning less than 350,000 Rand per annum will not pay tuition fees from 2018 onwards. Returning students would not need to apply to NSFAS, data to be exchanged between NSFAS and the Institutions, a document submitted to Parliament by the NSFAS said.

Responding to concerns from MPs on outstanding debt by returning student, the NSFAS said debt institutions will be requested to register all NSFAS continuing students who have university debt in 2018.

A due diligence will be conducted to quantify the amount of debt owed by NSFAS students to the university. Subsidised accommodation and subsistence refer to the provision of the cost of accommodation, meals, basic living requirements capped at specific amounts according to policies defined by institutions, said the NSFAS.

Source: NAM News Network