Johannesburg – Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, says in the coming weeks, a proposal will be submitted to Cabinet to look at funding options for the “missing middle” students.
The Minister said this when he tabled the department’s Budget Vote during a mini plenary of Parliament on Thursday.
The “missing middle” – a term that has gained currency in the higher education sector, refers to those students who come from working class households that do not qualify for the National Student Finance Aid Scheme (NSFAS) while at the same time, they cannot afford higher education.
“We are also examining new mechanisms, possibly backed by both public and private sectors, to support students in the so-called ‘missing middle’ income bracket, and post graduate funding,” he said.
Nzimande said this comes at the back of thousands of rejected new NSFAS students submitting their appeals.
He said that this year, NSFAS received approximately 799 017 applications, with 67% of the new applicants being SASSA beneficiaries.
He also said that there were 11 329 appeals received from rejected new applicants.
A great improvement for 2021 is that students who are rejected are able to appeal immediately.
“In a matter of weeks, we will table for Cabinet, consideration revised options for student funding, including for the “missing middle”.
NSFAS funding has increased five fold
Nzimande said, meanwhile, that NSFAS funding is expected to breach the R43 billion mark this year.
The NSFAS approved budget for 2020/21 is R41.5 billion, which excludes the R6.4 billion additional budget approved.
“Following the shortfall experienced by NSFAS, we reprioritised our departmental budget to ensure that all deserving, NSFAS-qualifying students are able to receive funding for the 2021 academic year.
“Irrespective of these challenges, NSFAS funding has increased more than fivefold just in 6 years, from R5.9 billion in 2014 to R34.7 billion in 2020.
“In the current financial year, NSFAS funding is expected to reach over R43 billion – a further increase of nearly R10 billion in just two years,” he said.
Nzimande said, meanwhile, that in ensuring that students are further supported in their studies, NSFAS awarded supply and delivery tenders for laptops for NSFAS students to four service providers on 5 November 2020.
“However, surging global demand for laptops triggered by the pandemic meant that NSFAS could not meet its planned delivery of the laptop devices for 18 April 2021.
“NASFAS is therefore working on a revised timetable to deliver the laptops in batches until 30 September 2021.”