Over 53 000 appeals approved for 2023 academic year

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says a total of 53 206 student appeals have been approved for the 2023 academic year, pending registration at a public university or Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college.

Briefing media on the 2023 academic year current state of affairs on Monday, NSFAS Board Chairperson, Ernest Khosa, said a total of 6 107 appeals have been rejected for either financial or academic ineligibility, and those students cannot submit any further appeals. 

“About 27 791 are awaiting supporting documents and messages requesting these have been sent to applicants and institutions. Other appeals are still in progress and all appeal decisions are subject to budget availability,” Khosa said.

The NSFAS appeals option allows individuals whose financial standing could have changed between the time of processing the application and finalisation of the funding decision. 

The financial standing may also change if a key contributor to the applicant’s household income may become incapacitated or is deceased since the submission of the application.

It may also change if the parents of a student/applicant are divorced, and in terms of the divorce decree, a court has determined that the responsibility for child maintenance, including the responsibility for the cost of education, is restricted to one parent. 

Khosa said in February 2023, NSFAS established an Independent Appeals Tribunal, including individuals in the higher education and training sector; officials from universities and TVET colleges, and members of student leadership, to deal with special or complex cases of appeals. 

“Examples of these (special or complex cases) would be applicants who have exceeded the N+ rule however, only have one or two modules to complete their degrees or applicants belonging to a household of more than R350 000, with more than one student in an institution of higher learning.”

The N+ rule refers to the number of years students will receive funding to obtain a qualification. The N+2 rule currently used makes funding provision to students for a minimum number of years allocated to the qualification “N” plus an additional two years N+2.

State of student accommodation

Giving an update on student accommodation, Khosa said, the NSFAS Board and management conducted site visits to the universities and TVET colleges across the country to assess the state of student accommodation for NSFAS funded students.

He said during the site visits, some of the challenges were identified and these included insufficient beds to accommodate students.

“The state of these accommodations is not conducive for student accommodation and learning. The cost structure for accommodation is not properly regulated and the accreditation process is fraught with inconsistencies. It is susceptible to fraud and corruption,” Khosa said.

Following this, Khosa said it was necessary for NSFAS to streamline student accommodation and optimise the process of providing housing for students in a way that is efficient, cost-effective, and conducive to a positive living experience. 

“NSFAS then built an online student accommodation portal wherein all accommodation providers, who wish to provide accommodation to NSFAS beneficiaries, should register their properties, including institutions. 

“NSFAS also then appointed 38 accreditors to accredit and grade the loaded properties. Once properties have been cleared and deemed fit for student living, the portal will be opened for students to apply for accommodation near them,” Khosa explained.

To date, Khosa said, a total of 41 245 beds have been registered and 24 784 across the country have already been accredited.

He said NSFAS has commenced the process of piloting the new system, with 18 selected TVET colleges. 

“It is envisioned that after evaluating the pilot project and mitigating challenges encountered, the portal will be opened fully for both providers and students in all institutions.” 

R45 000 accommodation cap under review

Meanwhile, Khosa said NSFAS has requested institutions that are negatively affected by the newly introduced R45 000 accommodation cap, to make their submissions and negotiations with private accommodation providers to adjust their rental rates to accommodate the cap. 

He announced that there is a task team led by the Department of Higher Education and Training that is reviewing the R45 000 cap. 

“NSFAS is constantly looking at ways to amend its funding policies to accommodate the dynamic conditions of the students’ life cycle and banks the success of these policy implementations on collaborative efforts with sector stakeholders. 

“We are always open to healthy engagements with our colleagues in the higher education sector, as well as student leadership in ensuring that the journey of our beneficiaries in learning is as comfortable as possible. We remain committed to enabling success and access in higher education sector in a responsible and sustainable manner,” Khosa said. – SAnews.gov.za