Yesterday Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, held a media briefing to discuss the department’s plans with regards to handling returning university students this month, as well as what the rest of the academic year held.

Another topic touched on by the minister was the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), and in particular what would be happening with regards to funding this year.

More specifically he confirmed that the N+2 rule would still be applicable for students who registered before 2018. For those unfamiliar with this rule, it states that students who registered before 2018, will have an additional two years to complete their qualification, after which funding from NSFAS will cease.

As such 2020 will prove a crucial year for many, and despite the chaotic disruption as a result of COVID-19, those NSFAS-funded students are still expected to complete their respective qualifications when the academic year ends.

Nzimande noted during the media briefing that extensive improvements at NSFAS have been made, and the the application of the rule has become more efficient in 2020. Consequently a significant number of students were found to have exceeded the N+2 rule in terms of their years in the system.

“While the N+2 rule for NSFAS students registered prior to 2018 has always been in place, its application has been erratic, due to data gaps, inadequacies and constraints between NSFAS and institutions. This means that as a direct consequence of the implementation of the rule, several students were unfunded,” the minister explains.

“After I had requested NSFAS to look into this matter and check if indeed some of the issues raised by the students could have some validity, we discovered that there are cases where the application of the rule may have been applied inappropriately or in an unjust manner,” he adds.

Nzimande highlighted three areas in particular, where NSFAS might have made an error regarding funding for students as per the N+2 rule:

  • “Students who may have de-registered in the first semester for prior years of study for financial or other reasons, yet the academic year is counted as time spent in the system;
  • Students whose academic progression has been affected by medical or psycho-social challenges, and where evidence supported by medical certificates and other evidence has been provided as part of the appeals process; and
  • Students who have exceeded the N+2 rule based on time in the system, but who are currently in their final year of study and will graduate in 2020.”

With there having been some oversights previously, the minister did note that appeals from students will be looked at. During the briefing he said that an estimated 9 000 appeals have received by NSFAS from students, and the department will be assessing these.

“NSFAS will look at the above three categories of students in considering the appeals, in line with the factors I have mentioned and address all deserving cases appropriately. However, the mechanisms to addressing the aspects of the N+2 rule that may have been unfair to some of our students will go a long way to ensure that those students who were unjustly excluded are considered,” Nzimande concluded.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]