Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will continue funding for all existing recipients, who have met requirements for this academic year.

Nzimande, however, has acknowledged that the funding scheme has experienced a financial shortfall this year. He has briefed the media in Pretoria on Monday on the funding decisions for 2021 new prospective students.

The Minister says NSFAS has not been able to allocate funds to all first-year students due to a number of issues.

“We have had an extended academic year which was not allocated additional money. We had budget cuts. Thirdly, because of the deteriorating economic situation, many NSFAS applicants now, who in the past were not previously meeting the funding requirements now do because of retrenchments and collapse in a number of businesses. They can no longer afford it. NSFAS is going to be funding all returning beneficiaries who meet the academic and other relevant criteria.”

NSFAS has budgeted over R35 billion for 2021.

However, Nzimande says the government is committed to ensuring that deserving students get financial assistance in 2021, adding that there have been challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a shortfall in funding. However, Nzimande says work is continuing to ensure that funds are approved.

“In line with this commitment, the Minister of Finance directed that the Department of Higher Education and Training should work with the National Treasury to identify policy and funding options to be detailed in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS). I can confirm that this work is under way and options will be presented to cabinet on Wednesday this week for consideration.”

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande hosts a media briefing on funding decisions for 2021