DA’s Edmund van Vuuren said the scheme would cost South Africa at least R3bn a year
A CASH injection of R750 million has been made available to universities by the National Treasury to fund 2011 final year tertiary students who qualify for a government-issued loan.
This came after President Jacob Zuma’s announcement at the ANC’s 99th birthday celebrations last Saturday that “deserving” final-year university students with National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) loans, irrespective of their pass mark, would a receive a bursary equivalent to the full costs of their final year studies including living expenses.
This would essentially mean that students’ final year bills would be converted to bursaries.
The new scheme does not take into consideration loans preceding students’ graduate year.
Eastern Cape universities this week welcomed the ANC initiative.
Walter Sisulu University (WSU) spokesperson Angela Church said the reform would realise the dreams of many rural students.
“This will improve the university’s throughput rate as the majority of WSU students come from rural backgrounds where there are financial constraints,” she said.
Deputy registrar of Rhodes University Gcinibandla Mtukela said: “The university sees this as a positive move whose value will be fully realised if the necessary additional funding is allocated to back the commitment.”
Nelson Mandela Municipality University spokesperson Roslyn Baatjies said they could not see any future problems with the scheme.
Last year alone the three universities assisted 10 688 university students and the loan total came to R261 038 752.
In a statement, issued to clarify the finer points of the scheme, NSFAS chief executive office Ashley Seymour said: “It is important to distinguish that only the loans awarded to students in their final year and who qualify for NSFAS funding will be converted to bursaries on successful completion during 2011.
“Should any of these final year students have any loan outstanding for loans in preceding years, these loans per their terms and conditions remain repayable.”
NSFAS spokesperson Bonny Feldman said the new reform was set up to make education “accessible” for all.
“It is a positive incentive for final year students to get through the year and will cut graduate loan costs down,” she said, adding that it will work “in the same fashion” that the existing loan system works.
Feldman could not confirm how many 2011 students would form part of the new category and the amount of money needed to assist them.
But the DA has warned that Zuma’s late Christmas present would cost taxpayers triple.
DA education spokesperson Edmund van Vuuren said yesterday the scheme would cost South Africa at least R3bn a year.
Van Vuuren said the scheme needed to ensure students “did not abuse” the gift from Zuma.
“There are people who are going to try and manipulate the system … they must ensure correct measures are put in place,” he said. — email@example.com