Nsfas Exclusion : Historic debt has resulted in the financial exclusion of many students from UCT. In combination with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), there is now a debt-to-loan plan in place which aims to enable students with fee debt extending back to 2013 to proceed with their studies. The plan is funded by both NSFAS and UCT’s own resources and allows for students to convert debt up to R10 000 into a NSFAS loan.
According to the UCT Financial Aid page, UCT is ‘committed to providing a broad based financial assistance programme.’ UCT’s financial aid budget is sourced from the university’s general operating budget, annual fees and donors who have contributed specifically to the Student Financial Aid Office. UCT’s financial aid infrastructure is split between the government-funded NSFAS of the Department of Higher Education and UCT’s own GAP funding.
NSFAS and GAP funding is structured on a loan/bursary basis. This system has many benefits compared to student loans underwritten by commercial banks. There are no surety requirements, no interest accrues while a student is studying and there is a 40% conversion to a bursary if a student passes all of his/her courses during the year. Interest starts one year after graduation in order to give students time to find employment. The loan is repaid to NSFAS in income contingent repayments, based on a sliding scale of income. The split in funding is due to the maximum threshold amount – less than R230 000 gross income per family – needed to qualify for NSFAS being too low. Families of students who qualify for GAP therefore earn approximately R230 000-R550 000 gross income per year.
The threshold is calculated using the government national means test, used by every institution across the country. It is revised annually, with the exception of the past year due to there being noincrease in fees for 2016. Despite revisions to the amounts, there will always be students disadvantaged by being just outside of the qualifying limits. Outliers, for example families with many more dependents, are taken into account by the Office on a case-by-case basis.
Each family is expected to make a financial contribution to university fees, known as the estimated family contribution (EFC) starting at R1 100 per year. It is to be paid by the end of the first semester. The NSFAS EFC is higher than that required by UCT. UCT funds the difference.
There are two requirements: a student must qualify for entry into UCT and must apply for financial aid on time. The first-time application for financial aid is made for a student’s entire degree at UCT.
There are two added academic requirements for annual renewal. Students must pass at least 50% of their academic courses during the year and their degree may not last longer than two years past their prescribed programme’s stipulated length.
NSFAS provides a monthly allowance for ten months of the year to each financial aid student, something GAP generally does not do. The allowance is calculated on a sliding scale according to the type of accommodation in which the student lives (catering residence, self-catering, private residence or home) and divided between incidentals, food, rent and travel. The amounts are revised every year, according to the economic climate at the time. UCT guarantees any shortfall.
Appeals are usually where both staff and students alike encounter the most difficulties. Appeals fall into one of four categories: the student has not paid their contribution and therefore faces fee debt (whether on financial aid or not); wishes to change their programme of study during their degree; has failed to submit the requisite application documents on time or faces changed family circumstances which impacts on their ability to pay their fees or EFC.
At any point during the year, if there are exceptional changed family circumstances, the outcome of a previously unsuccessful financial aid application or appeal may be changed (for example, if a bread winner dies).be made available.