How students could access financial assistance for higher education in South Africa

How students could access financial assistance for higher education in South Africa

Education is expensive in South Africa, and many students miss the opportunity to pursue higher education due to financial constraints. However, there are several options for financial assistance to ensure such students finish their studies.

The number of students qualifying for public universities has been rising, and the government cannot fund all of them. As a student from a financially challenged household, you will need to look for ways to fund your studies after matriculation.

What are the three types of financial assistance that can be applied?

The three major types of funding include grants, loans, and work-study. Grants entail free money; loans must be repaid with interest, while work-study funding is earned by working.

What are the alternative options for financial assistance?

What are the options for financial assistance related to higher education in South Africa? There are several financial assistance options available to finance further studies in the country, as mentioned below.

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1. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

The NSFAS, under the Department of Higher Education and Learning, helps learners from financially disadvantaged backgrounds get funding for their public university or TVET education. If you come from a family whose combined annual income is less than R350,000, you are eligible to apply.

Applications are open from September to November every year. NSFAS funds students from all 26 public universities in South Africa.

Higher education financial assistance
NSFAS provides financial aid to the poor class, while ISFAP helps the missing middle. Photo: @myNSFAS, @ISFAP_ZA on Twitter (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

2. Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP)

The ISFAP was registered in 2018 as a Public Benefit Organization after the former Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Blade Nzimande, appointed a task force to explore options for funding needy students. ISFAP funds the total cost of studies for learners from the missing middle class (households whose annual income is between R350,000 and R600,000).

ISFAP was created to complement NSFAS, which funds learners from the poor class (households with an annual income of R0 to R350,000). ISFAP supports students pursuing degree courses with high demand or scarce skills.

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The Ikusasa programme currently funds students from 11 South African Universities, including:

  • Central University of Technology
  • Nelson Mandela University
  • University of Venda
  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of the Witwatersrand
  • University of Pretoria
  • Walter Sisulu University
  • University of Cape Town
  • Tshwane University of Technology
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • University of Johannesburg

3. University financial aid and work/study programmes

College financial assistance
Most universities across South Africa have financial aid offices to help needy students. Photo: PamelaJoeMcFarlane
Source: Getty Images

Most universities across South Africa offer loans and bursaries to needy learners through the Student Financial Aid office. Funds are allocated to learners after the assessment of submitted funding applications. Universities also offer work-study programmes where students can work part-time at schools and get paid.

4. External bursaries

External sponsors, including private and state-owned companies, NGOs, SETAs, and government departments, provide financial assistance to learners pursuing certain professional studies. When applying for external bursaries, you need to send your academic reference letter or testimonial and a motivational letter indicating why you need funding. The funder will then invite you for an interview.

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There are numerous organizations across South Africa that offer bursaries, including;

  • Genesis Educational Foundation Trust: Economic studies
  • ExploreAI Academy: Data Engineering and Science studies
  • Siemens: Engineering and technology studies
  • The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SIEFSA): Steel and engineering studies
  • The Professional Provident Society (PPS): STEM studies

To find out about open bursaries, visit the Bursaries South Africa website.

5. Scholarships

Scholarships are usually given to bright students with past academic excellence. Well-wishers, companies, and schools grant such learners money based on academic merit and without conditions.

6. Student loans

Student loans in South Africa
Various financial institutions in South Africa offer student loans that must be repaid with interest. Photo: Ta Nu
Source: Getty Images

Various financial services providers, including banks and credit companies, offer student loans that should be paid back with interest. The lenders usually send the applicable school fees directly to the learner’s college account.

The student’s parents or guardian is required to pay the loan’s monthly interest, while the capital portion is repayable by the student when they get employed or by a debit order. Applicants also need to provide surety in case they are unable to repay the loan when due. Banks usually request the learner to get a credit life insurance cover for the loan taken.

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Students loans are offered by the following South African financial services providers:

  • First National Bank (FNB)
  • Standard Bank
  • Nedbank
  • Absa
  • Fundi

7. Crowdfunding for students

Needy learners who miss out on other study funding options can try crowdfunding platforms. BackaBuddy and Feenix crowdfunding platforms for students have helped several South Africans raise money to cover their tertiary education fees. You need to sign up on their platform, submit your story, set your funding target, and reach out to well-wishers for support.

No learner should miss studies because of a lack of school fees. The above options for financial assistance are in place to ensure you study. Students are advised to apply for grants and scholarships before applying for student loans, which must be repaid with interest.

How students could access financial assistance for higher education in South Africa
Photo: (modified by author)
Source: Original

READ ALSO: Fundi Student Loan application: Everything you need to know

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Universities with low entry requirements in South Africa (2024) highlighted everything you need to know regarding the Fundi Student Loan. Fundi is an education financing and management specialist in South Africa.

The lending institution offers students unsecured loans at an 11.6% interest rate. You will have up to four years to make repayments, which are often collected from your paycheck or made by debit order.

Source: Briefly News

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