Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande says that the government is working towards providing support to higher education students who find themselves in the “missing middle” income bracket.
The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande presented a speech on the occasion of the Activation of the 21 Acts of Goodness to enable the matric class of 2021, in this speech he addressed the requirements in order to qualify for the NSFAS bursary and the issue of students who form part of the missing middle income bracket.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursary is offered by the government to South African students who have passed grade 9 to 12 to study at a TVET College or a public university.
If a student has been approved for NSFAS funding they will be required to meet the academic admission requirements of the TVET College or university which they have applied to before any funding will be allocated to them from NSFAS.
Minister Nzimande says that NSFAS funding has increased 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.
Nzimande says that the government is examining new mechanisms, which are financed by both the public and private sectors, to provide support to students who are in the “missing middle” income bracket and those students who are pursuing their postgraduate studies.
Students who belong to the missing middle are those who are too poor to afford university themselves but also not poor enough to qualify for government funding. Missing middle students are not eligible for NSFAS funding which requires students to have an annual household income of R350,000 or less. These students could come from large families where they cannot afford to pay for tertiary education or the student could have been made responsible to fund their own studies.
The Minister says that the government will be considering “revised options” for student funding which will take into consideration the missing middle.
He says that in favour of the expansion of access to the Post Secondary Education and Training (PSET) system, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), through the National Research Foundation has continued to award bursaries to post-graduate students including those who are completing their PhD.
Students and graduates have also been placed in DSI-funded work preparation programmes in science, engineering, technology and innovation institutions. This is done in support of the initiatives towards ensuring the responsiveness of the PSET system.
As government we will continue to welcome the necessary strategic relationships with the private sector to find innovative approaches to assist the poorer and the previously marginalized students in order to have a real chance at succeeding.
Nzimande says that while the poor and working class are currently of priority for the government’s funding policy, it is important that the private sector also assists by ensuring that no deserving student is left out of the education system in South Africa.