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A Beginner’s Guide To NSFAS: Everything You Need To Know

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Welcome to our guide on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), a critical tool for many South African students pursuing higher education. The cost of university and college education is steep, posing a significant challenge for those without sufficient financial resources.

NSFAS steps in to alleviate these financial burdens, covering essential expenses that might otherwise prevent learners from accessing higher education in public universities or TVET colleges. This support extends beyond tuition, encompassing various aspects of student life to ensure a well-rounded educational experience.

Our guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of NSFAS and its impact on students’ educational journeys.

This ensures that all potential students receive a fair chance at earning a qualification that opens various opportunities that were not available before.

Students who qualify for state-owned financial aid via NSFAS can earn an education, which paves the path towards successful employment or owning a business of their own.

NSFAS provides both loans and bursaries depending on circumstances, although, there is a list of prerequisites that decide who is a suitable candidate for receiving economic support.

One of the most important areas of concern students worry about is affordable student accommodation. With NSFAS funding, student accommodation offers everything learners need to feel both safe and secure, allowing them to bond with other tenants and study in peace.

Campus Africa for instance, is one of the many student housing options with superb amenities and services that allow first-time students to thrive, despite being away from their homes and families.


What is The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)? | Guide

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme is available for students who are without funding and require financial aid to enter into tertiary education. NSFAS loans have been in effect since 1996 thanks to the efforts of the South African department of education, which vowed to help deprived students with low household incomes to have a fair chance at completing a tertiary qualification.

In 1999 NSFAS overtook the Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa (TEFSA). NSFAS is a huge asset for potential students who are unable to support themselves through bursaries, bank loans, scholarships, or salaries.

NSFAS, a government-run body, is supported by generous local and international contributions alongside government grants and the Department of Higher Education and Training, forming an annual budget of around R14,901 billion. Because of the benefits offered by this scheme, more and more students are signing up for financial aid each year, with over 365,000 students having applied in 2020.

NSFAS will deposit the funds to the university/institution, rather than passing it directly to the applicants, however, there are monthly stipends depending on the learner’s circumstances. There are approximately 25 public universities and 50 TVET colleges that accept NSFAS students, giving learners plenty of institutions to choose from.


Does NSFAS Cover Student Accommodation?

In addition to covering tuition fees, food allowances, course materials, a laptop, personal care, travel costs (up to 40km, around R10,000 per year), the NSFAS also pays for student accommodation.

There are many affordable housing options in South Africa for students looking for accommodation, such as Campus Africa who accommodates for the University of Johannesburg as well as the University of the Witwatersrand. NSFAS student accommodations are ideal as they offer furnished rooms, uncapped wifi access, 24-hour security, opportunities for socialising, free laundry services, shared kitchens, gyms, and entertainment, for example, Netflix and DSTV.

Student housing is great for first-time students still trying to find their footing after leaving home for the first time. Transportation is typically easier to handle as NSFAS student accommodations tend to be situated closer to universities and sometimes even offer free transportation like we do!

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme allows for a more pleasant study experience as the burdens of financial constraints become something students will not have to fret over until they have successfully graduated. Student accommodations like Campus Africa can offer a healthy balance of focusing on tertiary studies alongside having fun within a friendly and fun community.


Who Qualifies For NSFAS?

Students who are eligible to apply for NSFAS have to meet a specific criteria. A means test will be carried out in order to establish whether the applicant is eligible to receive government funding based on overall income (both the family and learner’s). This enables the NSFAS to correctly calculate the amount a student needs per year (plus a monthly stipend).


Those who apply must meet these requirements:

  • Be a South African national who is attending/applying to attend public university or a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college.
  • Orphans and learners with unemployed parents may feel free to apply.
  • Receiving South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) grant receipts (these individuals will not have to complete a means test.
  • Possess a combined household yearly income of less than R350,000 and take part in the means test.
  • Those with a disability must have a combined household yearly income of less than R600,000.
  • Applicants who are already registered university students whose combined household yearly income is less than R122,000.
  • Applicants who already possess a qualification or have previously received financial help from NSFAS need not apply.
  • Individuals who attended “no-fee” institutions.
  • Learners who wish to complete an Undergraduate degree (Postgraduate studies are no longer financed by NSFAS)
  • TVET bursaries are only available for students who have achieved Grade 9 and 10.
  • Passing Grade 12 means being awarded NSFAS aid to attend a university.


The Application Guide For NSFAS:

Applications tend to be open during the months of September, October, and November. Students must ensure they apply at least one year before commencing their studies, especially with the increasing volume of applications being sent in every year.

Applications can be completed in person at a National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) office, the Financial Aid Office (FAO), a Thusong Service Centre, Student Service Centre or online (via the official NSFAS site).

Nonetheless, it is vital that the necessary documents are submitted in order to receive a reference number.

Online applications are done by creating a MyNSFAS account ( on the student portal, where applicants will be able to upload their supporting documents. Registration costs are covered by the NSFAS.


Documents expected to be submitted include:

  • Mobile number, email address, additional contact details, etc.
  • Copy of ID/Birth Certificate, proof of income belonging to applicant and parents/guardian/spouse.
  • Evidence of applicant’s income (e.g. recent payslip, no older than 3 months) or 1 year total of employee’s tax certificate (IRP5).
  • Non-SASSA learners can submit employment letters, unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Letters, and/or termination letters.
  • Applicants living with a disability must fill out a Disability Annexure A Form.
  • Students who are acknowledged by the Department of Social Development as a Vulnerable Child need to hand in a Vulnerable Child Declaration Form.


How Do Students Repay NSFAS?

Once a student passes all their registered studies in that semester/year, only 60% of the loan needs to be repaid. This is due to the fact that 40% of the funds automatically become a bursary upon the student’s course completion.

If a student applies for the NSFAS Final-Year Programme, their loans for the final year will be converted into a full bursary (100% of costs are covered) upon meeting the grade requirements in order to graduate.

Students who have graduated begin repaying their NSFAS loan once they have acquired employment, with an average salary of no less than R30,000 per annum. Those who are unemployed will not have to start repaying yet; however, if a learner has withdrawn from their course without earning a qualification, they must repay their NSFAS loan.


There are several options to pay back a NSFAS loan, including: 

  • Salary deductions occur when an individual’s employer subtracts an amount from the overall income to then forward over to the NSFAS.
  • Automatic monthly debit payments are useful for individuals who struggle to remember due payments.
  • Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) where the learner manually sends in their repayments each month to the NSFAS bank, whether via online banking or phone.

Students are recommended to do their research when it comes to applying for NSFAS funding, as the rules tend to change each year, especially before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.


See Also: NSFAS Guides

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