Is NSFAS A Bursary Or A Loan?

By Dave Nyam •  Updated: 03/23/24 •  6 min read

The National Student Financial Aid System (NSFAS) is a program the government supports to help qualified students from low-income homes pay for their education. The NSFAS is intended to support students in covering their housing costs, tuition, and other costs associated with their academic pursuits. But, many students know if NSFAS is a loan or a bursary. This article will examine the distinction between an NSFAS bursary

and an NSFAS loan if you must repay the NSFAS bursary, the amount of the NSFAS allowance for 2024, the duration of an NSFAS bursary, and whether you can get both at the same time.

Is NSFAS a Bursary or a Loan?

The Department of Higher Education and Training funds the NSFAS bursary program to help students who cannot pay for their education but do not qualify for other financial aid. The bursary is available to all South African citizens with an annual household income of R350 000 or less, SASSA grant recipients, individuals with disabilities with a combined annual household income of less than R600 000, and students who started their studies before 2018 with an annual household income of less than R122 000. The bursary provides financial assistance for housing, transportation, living expenses, incidental or personal care charges, registration, tuition, and learning material costs.

Loans that had to be repaid after graduation were the previous form of financial help offered by NSFAS. However, this has since changed. Presently, 40% of NSFAS funding is automatically turned into bursaries for those who pass all their courses during the year or semester, requiring them to repay only 60% once they find employment. You can apply for the NSFAS bursary by creating an account on the NSFAS website, updating your personal information, and uploading the necessary supporting papers if you match the eligibility requirements. You can contact NSFAS directly by phone or email with any questions or requests.

What is the difference between an NSFAS bursary and an NSFAS loan?

Financially challenged South African students can get financing under the National Student Financial Aid Program (NSFAS). A loan or a bursary are both options for providing aid to students. There are notable contrasts between the two, even though they provide financial help.

Bursaries are financial help for students that don’t need them to pay them back. Yet some scholarships have requirements, such as work-back commitments. To pay back the bursary, the student must work in a certain sector or industry for a set of time following graduation. An alternative to grants is a loan, which the recipient is responsible for repaying. Once the student’s studies are over, they must repay the NSFAS loans with interest.

Tuition, housing, and living expenses are covered by NSFAS bursaries, which are given out per various factors, including financial need, academic achievement, and other factors. NSFAS loans help defray a portion of living costs and tuition prices.

Do you have to pay back NSFAS bursary?

NSFAS bursaries have changed since the South African government began providing free educational chances to everyone. After completing their education, students are no longer required to repay NSFAS under the bursary program’s new full bursary programs. You must clear the loan you took if you registered before 2018. In contrast, 40% of the loan will be changed into a bursary if you succeed, leaving you with only 60% to repay.

If your yearly income exceeds R59,300, the repayment amount rises to a maximum of 8% of your wage. Minimum monthly payments of R75 are permitted. NSFAS will pursue legal action if you don’t pay them back, and they’ll use the usual debt collection processes. According to the South African government, students who don’t pay their debts on time risk having their names posted on a denylist with the credit bureaus.

In most cases, if you leave the program without finishing it, NSFAS may not ask you to pay back the money you received. They will deduct that money from any future applications for financing. You will, however, still be required to repay the loan even though you discontinued your studies before the program’s 2019 adjustment. If you need help making the loan payments, you must contact NSFAS.

How much is NSFAS 2024 allowance?

The National Students Financial Aid System (NSFAS) offers financial aid to students in South Africa. Averaged out over a 10 to eleven-month period, the NSFAS grant in 2024 will be R 4,296, on average. Including study materials, lodging, travel, incidentals, and living expenses, this allowance is broken down into five categories. While the accommodation allowance varies from R 5,427 to R 5,970 depending on the institution and campus you attend, the study materials allowance is R 5,200 for the entire duration. While the incidental allowance is only worth R 290 per month, the living allowance is R 1500. Depending on the distance between your house and college, the annual transport allowance ranges from R 750 on average to R 1,500.

According to your campus and institution, the NSFAS pays students an average of R90,590 annually, from February to November or January to February. Your NSFAS wallet will be the only place your allowance will be sent directly from NSFAS. A welcome SMS alert will be issued to your phone number once you open an NSFAS wallet account. With this alert, you can withdraw cash from any convenience store or merchant registered NSFAS merchant or use it to make purchases there.

How long does an NSFAS bursary last?

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursary’s term can change depending on how long the course or degree runs. An NSFAS bursary typically lasts the minimum years necessary to finish the degree or diploma program for which the grant was given.

The NSFAS bursary, however, might continue for up to seven years for students studying medicine. This case is because the medical degree is a more extensive program of study than the majority of other undergraduate ones. Students can also get NSFAS support for an additional year to retake a failed year if they fail one of their degree program requirements.

Can you have a bursary and NSFAS at the same time?

The National Student Financial Aid Plan (NSFAS) does not allow students to receive more than one bursary at once. Students struggling to pay for their higher education can receive financial aid from NSFAS, and a means test is used to determine which students receive NSFAS bursaries. It takes into account both their academic standing and financial status.

Applying for an NSFAS scholarship is a form of double dipping if a student already gets financial aid from another bursary. On the other hand, getting a combination loan from another financial aid provider might be feasible. Students who need financial assistance beyond what NSFAS or other bursaries offer typically have this option accessible. There can be requirements, such as upholding a specific standard of academic achievement, to qualify for such loans.

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