Randall Carolissen. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI/SUNDAY TIMES
Randall Carolissen. Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI/SUNDAY TIMES

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) needs R4.3bn extra to cater for students in 2020 because of delays brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was disclosed in parliament on Tuesday when Nsfas appeared before the higher education portfolio committee.

The estimated R4.3bn shortfall is to fund student allowances, and would be needed if the current learning term runs until early 2021, as is expected.

Following the lockdown announced in March, all technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and universities closed. At the time, a number of institutions had barely started with learning owing to registration challenges, and although tertiary institutions reopened in June, the academic year is expected to run over to 2021.

Addressing the committee, Prakash Mangrey, who is a risk and finance adviser to the administration, said Nsfas had expected to disburse R28.5bn in normal grant funding in 2020.

“On the assumption there will be a three-month extension to the academic year, then the financial impact of that is that Nsfas will need an extra R4.3bn over and above the actual grant allocation for the current year.

“This morning, the administrator approved the submission, which actually itemises this additional funding requirement for universities and TVET colleges,” said Mangrey.

He said TVET colleges would need an additional R350m in funding on top of the normal R6.7bn.

Nsfas administrator Randall Carolissen said the modelling for the shortfall was done solely on the allowances for students and not necessarily tuition fees or accommodation.

Addressing the same meeting, Diane Parker, who is a deputy director-general in the department of higher education and training, said there were discussions about fees and accommodation costs.

“The proposal is that we will be looking at the two academic years, and we will be looking at stretching out the costs this academic year and I suppose a compression next academic year, which is likely going to be a shorter academic year,” Parker said.

She said most plans by institutions show the current academic year would end in early February and the next academic year would start later than normal but would finish in the same calendar year.

Parker said the ministry was working on a draft gazette that would guide stakeholders on the issue of fees and accommodation.

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