The CEO of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) CE Steven Zwane urged graduates with outstanding loans on Tuesday to pay back the money, warning that the institution could not afford to write off their debts. NSFAS is under immense pressure to implement President Jacob Zuma’s surprise announcement on December 16 of free higher education for all first-time students from 2018. Compounding the logistical challenges created by the president’s move, is the fact that at the last count, previous beneficiaries owed R29.81bn. While the NSFAS improved its collection rate in the 2016-17 financial year, it recouped only R392.4m, according to the scheme’s latest annual report. The NSFAS uses the funds recovered from student loans to provide upfront payments to universities and Technical and Vocational Educational Training colleges, which allows them to waive registration fees for NSFAS-funded students. The money is also used to support students who are partly funded by nongovernment...

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