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5 Steps to get Government Student Loans in South Africa

Having a college degree allows you to have greater job opportunities and financial stability. However, for some people university costs can be prohibitive. Financing all expenses related to higher education involves a lot of money: tuition fees, accommodation, food; and the list goes on and on. In this article we will be discussing student loans financed by the Government of South Africa.

What is the Difference between a Bursary and a Student Loan?

Every parent’s dream might be for their kids to study and succeed in life. With that aim in mind, they can be willing to do whatever it takes to pay for their children’s education. Not everyone can afford that, though. For this reason, they may need to turn to student loans or bursaries to help their children out.

One way to finance the costs of studying at a university or a tertiary school is to ask for a student loan. This financial tool is designed for helping people access funds to pay for all the expenses of pursuing a career. Most of these loans have to be repaid in installments after you finish your studies.

A bursary, on the other hand, is money granted by a governmental organization or education institution in order to allow students to attend school, and receive allowances to solve accommodation and food issues. The money that the student receives does not have to be reimbursed. Usually this is granted to students with poor backgrounds.  

Is NSFAS a Student Loan?

The government of South Africa together with the Department of Education, Science and Technology created an organization to provide bursaries aimed at helping underprivileged students get an education. This organization is called The National Student Financial Aid Scheme and it provides bursaries to those South Africans who wish to study but cannot afford the costs involved. The aim of this organization is to provide tools for poor families to access higher education for their children.

This organization used to provide student loans that had to be repaid once the student finished their studies. Notwithstanding the fact that NSFAS now only awards bursaries, those students who previously applied for student loans will still have to repay the loan.

How does NSFAS Loan Work?

NSFAS is a bursary designed to help people from poor background to pursue higher education studies in both public universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions.

With this bursary you will be able to cover for accommodation, transport (a maximum of 40 km from the institution), living allowances, books and personal care grants. In order to be granted the bursary you will need to be registered in a public university or TVET. You will not be able to study at a private institution.

You will need to apply for this loan only once, since when you provide all your information, NSFAS assesses the amount of money that will be granted to you to cover for the complete duration of your studies. You will only be allowed to study for one qualification at one public institution with this bursary; that is you will not be able to attend two institutions at the same time.   

Does NSFAS Provide Online Application for its Student Loans?

This governmental agency works very hard to make this opportunity accessible for every South African that needs it. For this reason, the NSFAS has designed an online application that you will have to fill in  to apply for bursaries. You will only need to create an account and provide all the information requested.

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Bear in mind that you will be able to apply for this bursary only once. So, give it considerable thought if you will be able to commit yourself to your studies in order to pass all subjects and finally getting your qualification.

What are the Requirements for a NSFAS Student Loan?

We are talking about a bursary funded by the South African government which was created to help underprivileged students. For this reason, there are a set of requirements and qualifying criteria to be awarded this amazing help.

What you need to qualify for this bursary:

  • You must be South African; no foreigners are qualified for this bursary.
  • The income of all members of the household has to be less of R350 000 per year (if the candidate is a person with a disability, the maximum income is of R600 000).
  • If you receive SASSA grants, you qualify.
  • If you started studying previous to 2018, your household income cannot be over R120 000 a year.

In order for you to maintain the bursary until you finally graduate, you will have to successfully pass at least 50% of the courses or subjects of each year or semester. Also, note that missing classes is not an option. You must have 80% of attendance in all your courses.  

When are NSFAS Student Loan Repayments Due?

Since NSFAS used to grant governmental student loans, there are still some students who will have to pay back for the loans they applied for. These students will start repaying their loan after they finish all their courses and graduate from the public university or TVET. Repayments will be based on your salary and will start to be due when you earn more than R30 000 per year. All the money paid back to NSFAS will be used to continue helping other students in their dream of becoming graduate professionals.

2 main Differences and Similarities between NSFAS Student Loan and Bursaries

As it was already pointed out, NSFAS used to offer student loans to South Africans who wanted to pursue a career but did not have the economical means. Now, the only option available is to take out a bursary.

  1. With regard to similarities, we can say that both instruments were created to help students from poor backgrounds to attend a public university or TVET. There were maximum income amounts for students to apply for these loans, and you had to be a South African in order to qualify.
  2. The most important difference has to do with repayments. A bursary is an award provided by this agency that allows you to study for free. The school loan, on the other hand, had to be repaid once you started working.

NSFAS has evolved to provide economic aid for those families that can’t afford to send their children to college. In this way, the Government takes action towards building a more equitable and just society.

Not having the economical possibility to pay for your studies is no longer a setback. With student loans and bursaries offered by the Government of South Africa, you can study to become what you always dreamed to be. 

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Questions and answers

Who pays the tuition fee?

You will not have to worry about making payments to your university for tuition fees. NSFAS will allocate the amount of money corresponding to tuition fees directly to the University after you registered in that institution and filled in all applications and forms. These payments are made every three months.

What happens if my father has a job but he doesn’t have payslips?

In order for NSFAS to assess if you can qualify to the bursary financed by the Government, you need to provide proof of the income of your household. If your father does not have pay slips to present, he should ask his employer to issue a letter of employment where the amount of money he earns monthly should be stated.

Can I ask for a NSFAS bursary to pursue a postgraduate degree?

Unfortunately you will not be able to apply for the bursaries offered by the Government to study for a postgraduate degree. The reason for this is that NSFAS’ aim is to provide people with equal opportunities, so they only grant bursaries to allow them to achieve one first degree at a public university or TVET.

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