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Mounting student debt threatens higher education sustainability – Nzimande

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

  • Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande says mounting student debt threatens the sector’s future sustainability and stifles infrastructure development.
  • Student debt has reached R16.5 billion.
  • Nzimande said more than a million people applied for NSFAS, a majority of which are Sassa grant beneficiaries. 

Mounting student debt is threatening higher education’s future sustainability and stifling infrastructure development, says Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande. 

He said the debt had reached R16.5 billion.

Speaking on Tuesday at a media briefing in Pretoria about the department’s readiness for the 2023 academic year, Nzimande said higher education was working toward developing an alternative funding model for university and technical vocational education and training (TVET) college students.

He said the department would present the model in Parliament after consultations with relevant stakeholders. 

Nzimande said students who fell in the “missing middle” category were also a concern for the department.

Students in this category do not qualify for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding but cannot afford to pay TVET or university tuition.

“We will direct loans and bursaries and direct these efforts towards students located within the scarce skills category.

“We will also work with universities to say those students who are willing to acknowledge debt must also be admitted, hoping it is the last time we make these arrangements [before the new funding model comes into effect],” he said.

READ | Matric results: Class of 2022 in numbers

The minister said NSFAS received more than a million applications. He said most applicants were beneficiaries of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants.

He said although this was a high number, it would likely decrease as not all applicants had passed matric.

He said Sassa beneficiaries who passed received funding approval.

“All the institutions will register all NSFAS-funded students without paying any upfront registration fees. As a government, we are committing to the children of the working class and the poor,” he said. 

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