Will NSFAS Continue Funding Me If I Take A Gap Year?

By Tevait Feanle •  Updated: 03/25/24 •  5 min read

While you’re never too old to further your educational prospects, most undergraduate students using the NSFAS bursary are young adults. At this delicate age, it is sometimes a smart idea to take a year off of the studying grind you were in with the school system and ‘grow up’ a little. Perhaps you have an opportunity to experience a different location and can’t study online, or you may want to get some work experience or a good internship under your belt. People take gap years for a variety of reasons, and there is good news- it won’t have much of an impact on your NSFAS funding. Here’s everything you should know about NSFAS and gap years

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Will NSFAS Continue Funding Me If I Take A Gap Year?

If you commence your studies using an NSFAS bursary and then decide to take a gap year, you will be able to reapply to NSFAS to continue your studies once you return. Taking a gap year won’t affect your NSFAS funding potential. But there are some things to understand. NSFAS will only fund your academic ambitions for a maximum of four years under the N+1 rule. 

This rule means they will give you one more year than the program duration to finish your studies, so you have up to four years to complete a three-year Bachelor’s degree, for example. This rule applies to years registered at a tertiary institution, and they do not have to be consecutive. So you could say, complete the first year, take a gap year, and then return for years two, three, and potentially a fourth year (if needed to complete the degree) without it prejudicing your studies. 

However, you won’t continue to receive your NSFAS bursary in the year you are not actively studying. So you will need your own source of funds for your gap year. This is part of the reason why you apply for your NSFAS funding yearly, so they can pause it for you in years you are not attending the institution. Of course, you still have to meet the eligibility criteria every year you apply. So if your economic status shifts a lot during your gap year, it could impact your eligibility.

Can I Apply for NSFAS if I Take a Gap Year?

If you took a gap year directly after leaving school and now want to apply for NSFAS funding to further your education, you can! NSFAS exists to provide financial assistance for academically deserving students from poor and working-class families to enable them to access higher education in South Africa. The primary objective of NSFAS is to promote and facilitate access to higher education for all deserving and capable students who, without financial assistance, would not be able to attend university or college. The scheme aims to create an enabling environment for students from poor backgrounds to study and complete their studies without being burdened by financial constraints.

By providing this financial assistance to deserving students, NSFAS aims to help reduce the inequality gap in South Africa by ensuring that access to higher education is not limited by financial barriers. There is no age limit for when you can apply for your first round of funding, so it doesn’t matter if you are older than other students due to a gap year or any other circumstance. All that matters is that you meet the eligibility criteria and that you are still within the N+1 limit of study for your first undergraduate tertiary education.

How Do You Know if You are No Longer Funded by NSFAS?

If you do not receive your allowance, or there is a delay in payments to your educational institution, NSFAS may have stopped funding you. There are several ways to confirm this.

NSFAS funding is reviewed annually, and your funding may be terminated if you do not meet the required academic/financial need standards or fail to comply with the scheme’s policies and conditions. Remember that the income of family members can impact your bursary. You will also be terminated if you forget to reapply- it is not automatically renewed. If your funding has been terminated, you will need to make alternative arrangements to cover the costs associated with your studies, such as applying for other bursaries or loans.

Will NSFAS Continue to Fund Me if I Fail?

NSFAS will continue to fund you if you fail, within reason. They allow you to fail up to 50% of the modules you were registered for in the academic year without prejudicing your bursary. You also have to meet the minimum pass rate indicated by the institution, of course. 

Taking a gap year and even failing a few modules will not impact your ability to apply for the NSFAS bursary, providing you meet all the needed financial and academic criteria for funding. So if a great opportunity comes your way, don’t be afraid to pause your studies and resume them after your gap year- NSFAS will be waiting for you when you return!

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