NSFAS collaborates with government agencies to identify unqualifying students

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, says the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will continue its collaborative work with other government entities to verify all applications for funding.

Nzimande said the scheme is working with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), South African Revenue Service (SARS), and the Department of Home Affairs to verify information submitted by students applying for funding.  

A report from the NSFAS Board shows that 45 927 students were correctly or erroneously disqualified for funding due to processing gaps, which fall under three broad categories. The three categories include Hybrid Applications, Missing Parental Relationships, and Latency Data from the Higher Education Information Management System (HEMIS). 

Hybrid Applications are continuing students who applied, while Missing Parental Relationships are first-time entering students, who were previously funded and later rejected because of additional parental relationships that were verified, based on additional information sourced from government agencies. 

On Hybrid Applications, Nzimande said, the report shows that about 14 703 records were continuing students who applied erroneously because of migrating from the old to the new system, and in some instances, it was students panicking because they did not see their funding status and applied for funding. 

“I can confirm that all these students are now funded. The balance of 31 224 students remains not funded and this is due to the assessment of financial eligibility, as NSFAS continues to pick up additional parental relationships and academic ineligibility,” Nzimande reported at a briefing on Tuesday. 

On the Missing Parental Relationships, Nzimande noted that some students had initially declared one parent or the “incorrect” parent, who was not picked up by the Department of Home Affairs, and as such, a decision was made to initially fund the student. 

“However, based on review of this trend, through a relationship matrix that is built internally at NSFAS, we established additional parental relationship of students. This was exposed to SARS verification and SARS came with the feedback that the combined family income of these families exceeds the threshold. This led to the discontinuation of funding for some of the students. 

“Another criterion is the Academic Eligibility review, which was incomplete due to the delays in data received from HEMIS and this impacted the N+Rule (the number of years students will receive funding to obtain a qualification),” the Minister said.

Over 170 000 appeals received

Nzimande said NSFAS has received a total of 178 426 appeals due to the disqualifications, and these include 63 331 appeals that were approved and 8 528 that were rejected. 

“Out of these 178 426 appeals received, 30 712 were invalid appeals, meaning students either withdrew or their appeals were duplicated. Then there are 41 438 appeals that required the submission of external dependencies, such as submission of documentation. 

“About 20 908 are awaiting supporting document appeals, meaning the student submitted incorrect documents at the time of appeal and were requested to provide further documents. In addition, 20 530 students, through results from Higher Education and Training and our institutions, indicate that they did not progress. Students appealed the decision and indicated that they have passed,” Nzimande explained. 

The Minister said 11 284 appeals are currently in evaluation, which are assigned to a case worker to process each appeal. 

He assured that all the appeals will be attended to urgently. – SAnews.gov.za