Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Buti Manamela urged all universities to register students with outstanding historical debt and those who have not yet received funding confirmation from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
During a walkabout at the NSFAS offices in Wynberg, Cape Town, on Tuesday, Manamela said that all academically deserving students should be registered by all universities.
5. No university or TVET College should refuse students to register or expect them to pay anything on the basis of outstanding fees from 2017.— DM Higher Education (@ButiManamela) January 23, 2018
6. If you have applied for @myNSFAS and have proof, you can use this to apply to the university if you have been granted space to study
"We consider it a derailment of government policy if they send any student home on the basis that they either owe money or if that student has not received confirmation from NSFAS," he said.
Registration at universities for continuing students started this week, which may pose a problem for students who have not yet received confirmation from NSFAS.
"The institutions will take their details and present them to NSFAS. All the students who qualified and studied with NSFAS [loans] last year must register – as long as they have passed all their courses.
We are urging all universities not to [turn away] any student who has shown that they have applied for NSFAS.
Around 75% of the 300 000 NSFAS applicants have received confirmation of funding for 2018, according to NSFAS CEO Steven Zwane.
Both Manamela and Zwane have assured applicants that they would receive SMSs regarding their application status this week.
Although NSFAS beneficiaries for the 2018 academic year will receive bursaries as opposed to loans in previous years, former beneficiaries are still required to pay back their loans.
Zwane pleaded with NSFAS graduates and dropouts to repay their debt, which currently stands at R10.1bn, as it may affect future funding.
"Debt collection has helped us pay upfront to institutions to go into 50/50 partnerships with NGOs. If we don't get this money we will struggle to make upfront payments to institutions, we can't continue to fund students through NGO organisations.
"We urge all students who benefited from NSFAS to continue paying their debt," said Zwane.
Manamela's walkabout was to ensure that NSFAS was operating smoothly following President Jacob Zuma's fee-free higher education announcement on December 16, 2017.
"The decision by the president and government to provide free higher education for the working class and the poor has made NSFAS the nerve centre of student funding in our country," said Manamela.
"It is important that institutions like NSFAS are top-notch and up to scratch in order for them to deliver to those students."