Last week, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) met with representatives from the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to discuss policy discussions around student funding and commitments to fund NSFAS qualifying students at higher education and training institutions. Represented here are all the SETAs.
The NSFAS’s partnership with the SETAs dates back to 2012. “At the time, we had with few SETAs on-board committing to fund students in a form of bursaries for 1st year entering students,” according to a statement from the NSFAS. “Now most of those students are graduates. So, we thought it was important to convene a meeting to review the partnership and the work and the commitment made over the years.”
The partnership with the SETAs stems from the legislative mandate from Parliament:
* NSFAS was established in accordance with section 3 of the NSFAS Act, No. 56 of 1999 to operate a national financial aid scheme in terms of which low-cost loans or bursaries are made available to disadvantaged Students at higher education institutions.
* The SETA was established in accordance with the Skills Development Act, No. 97 of 1998 as amended to develop the skills of the South African workforce; to increase the levels of investment in education and training in the labour market and to improve the return on that investment; amongst others.
“The two parties recognise that the effective and efficient administration of financial aid is contingent upon an active, collaborative partnership between the SETA and NSFAS,” according to the statement.
“In 2013, more SETAs came on board to fund students through NSFAS. This was at the time that we were faced by historic debt challenges, and the Department of Higher Education and Training made available an amount of R1-billion at the time. Currently, SETAs contribute a total of R365-million towards bursaries that awarded to students through NSFAS. This makes SETAs to be part of the 25 funds that are administered by NSFAS. By any measure, this is a lot of money that goes towards funding poor students.
“NSFAS provides a service to the SETAs in terms of which the management and administration of bursary funds is rendered by appropriately experienced, qualified and trained personnel with all due skill, care and diligence. We utilise professional techniques and standards in managing and administering the funds. We have been doing it since 1991. Therefore, we have the capacity, capability, resources, experience and expertise to administer the funds effectively and efficiently.
“We are also happy that this continued partnership has helped us to sustain our 25 years of student funding for students from working class families. To date, more than 1,5-million students have been assisted and we have spent more than R50-billion in this regard. So we are moving forward, we are strengthening ties with our funders. They are an important part of what we do, without the SETAs; we would be funding fewer students.”
The following are part of the agreements between the parties:
* SETAs will continue to support NSFAS with student funding.
* NSFAS should improve the administration of funds and tighten its policies.
* Administrative guidelines and criterial should be reviewed.
* The learner/student selection processes and enrolment for critical and scarce skills or academic and/or technical learning courses should also be in line with the Human Resource Development Strategy of South Africa.
* Alignment in reporting and collaboration with the Auditor-General to ensure an effective and efficient way of reporting that is consistent.
* Improve support for financial aid offices (FAOs) of universities in identifying and conducting eligibility testing of bursary-qualifying students in line with the established eligibility criteria and the NSFAS Means Test.
* SETAs, because of close proximity to employers, will assist NSFAS-funded student to access internships, work-placements and employment.