NSFAS owes varsities close to a billion rand
A snap survey found that 13 out of 26 universities are owed a staggering R987.7-million
Universities are estimated to be owed more than R1-billion by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for students they enrolled last year.
Angry financial aid office staff from various universities met with senior staff from NSFAS operations division last week.
A snap survey by Times Select found that 13 out of South Africa’s 26 universities are owed a staggering R987.7-million – partly because thousands of students did not sign their loan agreement forms electronically.
But a senior official from one of the university’s financial aid offices said students were not to blame for the fiasco as NSFAS had been sending pin numbers to the wrong cellphone numbers.Before signing electronically, a student must log onto myNSFAS using a one-time pin sent by the NSFAS.
“Why would you have a list of 1,000 students and out of this only 200 are the correct cell numbers?” the official said.
“The NSFAS IT people need to explain but they are never at meetings. It’s a complete mess.
“Every single institution raised their concerns over the non-payment. Some were very angry. NSFAS admitted universities are owed a lot of money and it's a wake-up call.”
North West University and the University of Pretoria are owed R40-million and R70-million respectively, despite their students’ loan agreement forms having been signed electronically by students.
North West University spokesman Louis Jacobs said: “Only about R11-million is owed for unsigned loan agreement forms. The balance of the money [R40-million] which we have not received from NSFAS is for signed contracts. The contracts are in but they haven't come forth with the money.”He said the debt was having “an impact” on the university’s cash flow. “We have to give students money for food and accommodation. This money comes from university coffers while we await NSFAS money.”
University of Pretoria spokesman Rikus Delport said the outstanding R70-million “excludes funding for students who were offered contracts but who have not yet signed or who have not yet been offered funding”.
Walter Sisulu University spokesman Yonela Tukwayo initially confirmed the university was owed a further R120.9-million for the “provisionally funded students” for whom loan agreement forms were created by NSFAS, but later said this amount was "unconfirmed".Some of the other universities awaiting payment from the NSFAS include:
• University of KwaZulu-Natal: R300-million;• University of Fort Hare: R200-million;• Mangosuthu University of Technology in KwaZulu-Natal: R126.2-million; and• University of Johannesburg: R54-million.The remaining eight institutions including the University of the Witwatersrand, Pretoria, Sol Plaatje, North West, Mpumalanga, Nelson Mandela, Tshwane University of Technology and the Vaal University of Technology are collectively owed R186.6-million.
The other 13 universities did not respond to requests from Times Select.
Professor Ahmed Bawa, chief executive of Universities South Africa, said cash flow was a big problem for universities as the subsidy tranches from Higher Education were paid after long intervals “so universities have to manage their cash flow very carefully”.
NSFAS spokesman Kagisho Mamabolo said money was paid to institutions after claims were validated.
“Once students have signed the loan agreement forms, NSFAS takes an average of seven days to process payments.”
He said R9.4-billion of the university allocations for last year had been paid out by the end of December.
Commenting on claims that NSFAS was sending one-time pin numbers to the wrong cellphones, he said: “NSFAS has a defined process which allows applicants and students to change their cellphone numbers. It communicates to applicants via the cellphone number the applicant entered when completing the application form.”