Student accommodation demands will not be acceded to, says NSFAS

Student accommodation demands will not be acceded to, says NSFAS. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Student accommodation demands will not be acceded to, says NSFAS. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 5, 2024


Student demands for changes in accommodation allowances and for funds to be paid directly towards them will not be entertained by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Acting NSFAS chairperson Professor Lourens van Staden announced during a briefing in Pretoria yesterday that although they had been informed of the demand by students for an adjustment to accommodation allowances and for the funds not to be paid to landlords or institutions, this could unfortunately not be heeded.

Van Staden said this was because the demand was not in line with the scheme’s funding guidelines.

As it stood, he said the scheme had capped student accommodation at R50 000 for metro institutions and R41 000 for non-metro accommodation allowances, only with properties that had been accredited and graded.

While the accommodation cap was dropped from R45 000 to R41 000, the acting chairperson said the decision was informed by a research study conducted.

He also emphasised that part of the reason why it was imperative to stick to the processes implemented for accommodation was that they had been alerted to alleged corruption and bribery between accrediting agents and landlords, something which would not be tolerated.

A number of institutions witnessed sporadic student protests over the student accommodation crisis, with many decrying the R45 000 cap as not being sufficient to allow students to find accommodation in campus residences and off-campus private accommodation that were within walking distance of the university.

Van Staden further revealed that universities and TVET colleges would directly disburse student allowances to students for the next two months.

Communication had, according to the scheme, been sent to all universities notifying them of the decision, with the financial aid managers at the various institutions requested to confirm allowance payment dates.

A direct payment channel would also be used to disburse funds to TVET colleges.

To date, about 29 institutions have submitted their registration data, which according to the chairperson would enable them to be paid this Friday, with the remaining institutions urged to submit their data to enable the aid scheme to make “catch-up” payments.

In order to enable institutions to effect the student allowances, Van Staden said two upfront payments had been made to the institutions, the first on January 31 to the tune of R2.8 billion to universities, and the second disbursed on February 29.

The first upfront payment will cover student book allowances, calculated at half of the 2023 academic year cost, and one month’s accommodation.

The second upfront payment affected by March 1 was to the tune of R2 107 551 411.20 to cover book allowances, accommodation allowances, transport, food and personal care.

The upfront payments are expected to be disbursed to students from the beginning of April.

A further R580 150 950.00 was paid to TVET colleges as upfront tuition for January.

Van Staden said an additional R1 billion was earmarked for three months’ worth of allowances to be paid based on registration for the January to March period, to enable institutions to register all NSFAS-approved students for the current academic year.

For medical students in particular the aid scheme said provision had been made for two months’ worth of student allowances, especially for those whose academic year commences in January.

According to the acting chairperson, NSFAS had requested the institutions to make the allowance payments due to the challenges experienced at the beginning of the academic year which led to delays in receiving registration data from the institutions.

Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) SRC president Keamogetswe Masike said they were disappointed with the decision to allow universities to disburse student allowances given how some were heavily plagued by corruption themselves.

Masike said it was even more disappointing that nothing significant was mentioned of the progress of investigation into the expelled CEO, corruption and other issues plaguing the financial aid scheme.

“We hoped to hear how NSFAS was going to address the myriad issues which have been plaguing the scheme and instead we got nothing concrete. Werksmans recommended that some staff members were linked in the appointment of independent service providers yet we know nothing about these people who assisted with the appointment, why are they in the shadows?

“That was an essay of a Grade 7 child who was given a topic to go and present issues, instead of giving us the disbursement model to be used, and how these institutions are going to be held accountable and not withhold funds as discovered by the SIU,” Masike stressed.