Earlier in January, the South African Students Congress (Sasco) embarked on a national strike at universities such as the Tshwane University of Technology, the University of Johannesburg and the Durban University of Technology. Due to the national strike Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande allocated R1 billion to NSFAS to settle outstanding fees from 2013.
At UP, outstanding fees from last year have still not been settled and students are still unable to register. Having recognised the problem, the university made provision that students with outstanding funds due to NSFAS could register for 2014, provided that they had achieved an academic average of over 50% and that a complete application for financial aid for 2014 had previously been submitted. The university said that students who did not fall into this category needed to make payment arrangements with Student Accounts. This arrangement included the stipulation that at least 50% of the outstanding fees had to have been paid or covered by external funding before registration could be approved.
The university says that it is aware of the announcement that has been made by the minister regarding the R1 billion allocation, but that it has not received an allocation for historic debt funding from NSFAS to date. “Should UP receive historic debt funding, qualifying students will be informed accordingly,” said the registrar’s office.
In February the university opened up late applications for 24 hours for students who had not applied for financial aid for 2014. Only a few students could register. It is not clear what selection was based on or how many students registered. The registrar’s office said that, “It has always been communicated to students that an application for NSFAS funding does not guarantee an award [of a place at UP]. Certain NSFAS criteria and academic criteria need to be met in order to qualify for an award. Many students who applied for NSFAS did not qualify for awards.”
“In addition to this, awards were subject to availability of funding, resulting in students who theoretically qualifying for awards not receiving any awards. UP acts as an agent for NSFAS and administers funding on the behalf of NSFAS. Criteria and funding for awards are determined by NSFAS.”
Selina Bojosi, a third-year BIS Publishing student, had to leave UP due to NSFAS’s lack of funds. Bojosi had received an internship that would also fund her studies this year, but ended up losing it because she was unable to register as a student for 2014.
Bojosi owes R65 000 to the university. She told Perdeby that NSFAS did not send her an SMS to inform her to sign a contract last year. When she first inquired at the bursaries and loans section of Client Service Centre (CSC), she was told that her NSFAS application had not gone through. When she went to the CSC again, she was told that there was a shortage of funds.
Bojosi said that although she has still not seen her final results due to the outstanding debt, she managed to find out from one of the employees at the NSFAS offices that she got an average of 61%. This means that, according to the provision that UP has made, Bojosi would have been eligible to register. She said that she was informed by NSFAS that the only reason why she cannot register is because she did not apply for NSFAS this year. Bojosi maintains that she did not apply because of her internship.
Bojosi said that she was told that there is nothing that can be done to assist her.
Another Tuks student, a BA Law student that wishes to remain anonymous, said that he applied for NSFAS funding last year and was also told that funds had run out. He owed a total of R104 000 to UP. He was only able to register once he managed to find a sponsor that paid R64 000 of what he owed the university. He added that if NSFAS does not settle his outstanding fees, he will be faced with the same situation next year as his sponsor will not pay more. “All this time I did not have access to my final results. They told me that they could not help me and took me to Student Support. There I was advised by the psychologist that I should go and work,” he said.
“The only thing I got [from NSFAS] was the R3 000 Eduloan card for books. They told me that I should wait for historic debt funding for 2014. When I did approach them this year they told me that there was no money,” he said. He added that he has been sleeping in the library for the first two months of the year as he did not have accommodation. It was only after he was able to register that he was placed in a residence.
UP has said that it can assist students who applied for financial aid with university-managed loans. The maximum value of these loans is R20 000 and the student must provide two guarantors for the loan.