NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

More than half a million first-time applications for bursaries had been received by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) by the end-November deadline, the student funding organisation said on Monday.

NSFAS administers the funding of government’s free higher education and training policy and has about R33bn to disburse in 2020.

 A total of 543,268 first-time applications were received by the closing date compared to 428,929 the previous year. Just under 50% of the applications came from social grant beneficiaries.

The highest number of applications received were from KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Gauteng. About 80% of applicants indicated that university was  their preferred place of study.

NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen said in a statement the record number of applications followed an extensive outreach campaign by the scheme in small towns and rural areas in which poor and vulnerable students were prioritised.

Of the received applications, 473,911 were valid and fully completed, and of these 346,364 were declared eligible for funding at this stage, 36,865 were withdrawn, 28,979 did not meet the minimum funding criteria and the remaining 61,703 applicants submitted documents of poor quality, which were subsequently validated by the department of home affairs.

Students previously funded by NSFAS who will be continuing their studies in 2020 will be funded based on progression results to be received from the institutions.

Carolissen said the personal details and social welfare status of all applicants had been validated with the department of home affairs and the department of social development. “This is a major improvement in NSFAS administration, as communication of the funding decision prior to the commencement of the academic year will allow students to enrol at tertiary institutions without having to pay upfront registration fees.

“As in prior years, it is expected that a significant number of students will apply after they have registered at TVET (Technical Vocational Education & Training) colleges in January 2020. In the previous year this category of students amounted to 160,000.”