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Friday, January 21, 2022

NSFAS struggles with backlog

Mayibongwe Maqhina 

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) still has a backlog of more than 80 000 unresolved bursary applications – with 19 000 being unsigned loan agreements – as at the middle of this month.

This was revealed by Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor when she responded in a written response to a parliamentary question from the DA’s Andricus van der Westhuizen.

He had enquired about the backlog of administration, reconciliations and payments that had to be dealt with before starting the 2019 academic year.

The student financial scheme had in 2018 experienced challenges, including funding decisions, addressing the 2017 academic year backlog, the non-payment and delays in the payment of allowances, and a weakness in data integration between NSFAS and institutions.

This led Pandor to appoint Dr Randall Carolissen as the administrator.

In her reply, Pandor said unresolved applications from 2017 and 2018 stood at 83186 as at February 14.

“Of these, 19113 relate to unsigned loan/bursary agreements.”

She said the absence of signed contracts prevented NSFAS from making payments to the applicant or the educational institution at which they were registered.

Pandor said the details of the students with unsigned contracts were sent regularly to their host institutions for them to ensure the contracts were signed.

“Once signed, fees and allowances can be paid immediately,” she said.

Pandor said there were a further 64073 outstanding cases where there were internal system issues that prevented final resolution of the bursary applications.

“Of these, 54807 (10333 from 2017 and 44474 from 2018) relate to changes in fees or allowances that, for a number of reasons, are rejected by the processing algorithm. The causes of these rejections have now been identified, and the algorithm is being updated to resolve the blockage.”

She said NSFAS had planned to complete this work by last Friday.

NSFAS received more than 400000 applications for bursaries for 2019 academic year; about 170000 qualified.

Political Bureau

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