As more and more students rely on financial assistance to fund their studies, the administration burden on universities, FETs (Further Education and Training) institutions and corporate sponsors has increased.
The result is that they often struggle to efficiently administer the bursaries awarded to their students. Lacking extra capacity, they find the most efficient way of reducing their burden is to dole out the full year’s value of a bursary, less tuition fees, to students up front.
It is estimated that the average cost of a three year degree is around R75 000 in South Africa – for tuition alone. The cost of rent, food and books can mean that the true cost is around R150 000 – a lot of money for most people. In order to benefit the maximum number of students, with the limited funds available, we need to consider how this money can best be managed – to everyone’s benefit.
Students with limited financial education, who have never had to compile a budget, are asked to manage sums which, to them, might seem almost limitless. The truth is that R50 000, if not managed wisely, can be spent in just a few months.
Without advice and management tools in place, many students run out of funds towards the middle of the year, placing enormous pressure on families to keep students in tertiary education. Concentrating on studies is hard enough without wondering whether users have enough money to buy groceries for the month.
Eduloan’s Eduxtras card is an easy-to-use, secure solution in the form of a debit card which will assist both students and their sponsors to ensure that funds are spent for the purpose they were intended.
As with any bank card, the Eduxtras solution offers online statements and easy swiping at merchants on and around campus. Bursars can stipulate online in a once-off transaction for each student how these funds can be disbursed, with sums allocated for rent, food and groceries, books, and tuition. There is also a cash facility, with funds transferred to the student’s bank account.
Universities have welcomed the Eduxtras card, saying it allows them to better serve their students while reducing their administration costs associated to managing funds allocated by bursars and The National Student Fund Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Roekus de Villiers, financial aid director at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), says his institution has benefited by introducing the Eduxtras card to students. Previously, TUT had employed eight people to manage a book voucher system which allowed students to buy their books from on-campus stores. Invoices were manually processed every month.
“There’s no doubt the solution we currently have works for us,” he says. Not only has the university increased the accuracy of its record-keeping, but it has also increased trust.
“One of the biggest benefits we’ve gained is that there is trust from the students’ side,” he says, explaining that students felt more comfortable with the process, while bursars were also satisfied that funds were being appropriately used.
Funds in each pocket can be used only with suppliers that are set up for each category. For example, the books allowance can only be spent at contracted bookshops, and not on food. This ensures that overspending in one category does not affect students’ other commitments. To assist in budgeting and money management, realtime statements are available throughout the month.
Once the allocation has been done, cards can be used at over 200 merchants around the country, with more added all the time. Over 80 accommodation merchants have signed up, as has Pick n Pay’s network of supermarkets in the vicinity of the campuses.
The Eduxtras card offers more than convenience. For bursars, universities and FET colleges tasked with bursary administration, it also represents a significant cost saving. In order to provide the same level of service available through the card, they would need extra staff to administer monthly payments and would themselves have to vet merchants.
In the case of off-campus accommodation, one larger university would facilitate transactions in excess of R80-million, with multiple merchants. The administration involved is not insignificant.
Corporates, too, benefit from the product as they know the bursary funds will be spent wisely and their students will be able to complete their studies without financial worries.
With the cost of studying steadily increasing, deciding how much money to allow for living expenses can become a guessing game. Eduloan administers R550-million worth of bursary funds throughout the country, and can advise what typical costs are for each category and how much money should be allocated for each purpose.
For instance, tuition for undergraduate degrees costs up to R25 000 for government-funded institutions, but can be higher at private facilities. Rental depends on the area, but usually costs between R1 200 and R1 700 a month. Books are a substantial cost, at an average R8 000 a year. Students typically spend between R800 and R1 000 a month on groceries.
Money paid over by bursars or other sponsors is kept in a trust account and is not accessed directly by Eduloan, ensuring that the funds remain secure.
Efficient bursary fund management leads to better outcomes. At a time when we want students to concentrate on the new skills they are acquiring, it does not seem wise to burden them with financial worries. Some families end up going into further debt, through additional loans, when the initial loan or bursary amount is exhausted. Other students simply drop out.
There are no transactional costs associated with the card, and neither are bursars nor education institutions charged any fees, as the business model is based on agreements between Eduloan and merchants. But for many students and bursars, the convenience and peace of mind it provides are priceless.
“It’s important that the donor is happy that the funds are spent in the right way, and those kinds of controls were built into the card,” he says. “The solution definitely assisted us with the administration and reduced the cost of staffing.”