The National Student Financial Aid Scheme is aiming to pay increased allowances to students in an efficient manner. A student union has welcomed the way the financial aid scheme wants to achieve this.
Earlier this year Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande announced an increase to the allowances received by students who are funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas).
Nsfas provides several allowances to students that aim to cover the costs related to their studies. These allowances include accommodation allowances, transport allowances, meal allowances and learning material allowances.
Minister Nzimande announced an across the board increase of 7% for all Nsfas allowances. Of these allowances, the living/food allowance will increase by 10%.
The South African Union of Students (SAUS) have welcomed the increases to Nsfas allowances for the 2023 academic year. They added that their contribution ensures that students will receive a greater increment to the food allowance.
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) initially approved a 5% increase in food allowances received by Nsfas beneficiaries. However, the union says after rigorous deliberations, the government and Nsfas were forced to increase their initially approved increment
They explained, “Initially the department with Nsfas had proposed and approved a 5% increase in the food allowances, but after rigorous and militant deliberations, we are more than delighted to announce that we have been able to force the government and Nsfas to increase food allowance by 10%, which effectively is R150 a month.”
While the union is satisfied with the increase, they acknowledge that it isn’t enough in the current economic climate. In addition, Nsfas allowances last increased in 2018 meaning that several years have passed since students received an increase in allowances payments.
Obviously, although a significant win for the struggles we’ve waged, this 10% increase isn’t enough on the backdrop of the fact that allowances were last increased in 2018.
SAUS also welcomes Nsfas’ decision to pay allowances directly to students. The financial aid scheme announced a direct payment solution in 2022 which they hope will have given students more control over their money.
The union said, “We have also for almost a decade called for a more efficient, secure and cheaper disbursements of student allowances, and we believed this would be achieved by the direct payments of allowances to Nsfas beneficiaries, so we welcome this decision by Nsfas as a positive step towards this ideal.
Allowances were previously paid to students via third-party service providers. However, this resulted in issues such as unauthorised access to beneficiary allowance, incorrect payments and possible duplicate payments.
The new direct payment solution will see students issued with a Nsfas bank card. The Nsfas bank card will give students the flexibility of a regular bank card and ensures they get value for money.