NSFAS is the National Student Financial Aid Scheme that provides students with loans and bursaries to cover the cost of tertiary education at any of the 25 public universities or 50 TVET colleges in South Africa.

NSFAS receives money from government departments, SETAs, companies or private individuals. All the money is then pooled together into the NSFAS fund. The application process can take a long time because NSFAS has to wait for government departments to release funding to them. Therefore some students will see their application status as awaiting funding. This does not mean you will not be funded. Most governmental departments’ financial year runs from April every year and funding might still be released later in the year. It is important to remember that the NSFAS fund runs out of money as applications are received, allocated and approved. However, some students will change their courses, go study at a different university or drop-out, so funding might become available again after the bulk of registrations are completed.

Once you have applied, your application is first assessed for academic eligibility and then financial need. NSFAS pays the universities and colleges directly based on individual costs, the number of registrations and student demographics. This will cover your tuition money and in some cases your accommodation and allowances. The new sBux system is being implemented to pay allowances for food, transport, books and private accommodation directly to the students.

Once a student graduates or drops-out and starts earning a salary of more than R30 000 per year, it is the legal responsibility of that student to start paying back the loan. This allows NSFAS to keep giving loans and bursaries to new students who also need financial assistance.

Depending on your results, up to 40% of your NSFAS study loan may be converted into a bursary which you do not need to repay. TVET college students’ loans are automatically converted into full bursaries.

How is it different to other loans?
Due to low-interest loans, NSFAS is the most affordable loan provider to South African students. Unlike banks, NSFAS gives loans to students without the need for guarantees or sureties from parents or guardians.

The system serves thousands of students every year, and this can lead to many frustrations. Funding your studies is your responsibility. Explore other options and also visit your university or college's Financial Aid Office for assistance.