List room for free


The National Student Financial Aid Scheme can give your dreams wings

Liezl Hesketh in Students 


student loan applicationTertiary studies can be very expensive. However, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has given numerous students the financial support they needed to fulfil their dreams of studying and thereby improving their financial fortunes and futures.

The NSFAS is a state-owned agency that offers affordable loans and bursaries to students attending public institutions. These loans are financed by different government departments, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and other donors. In 2014, it funded loans and bursaries totalling over R8.3 billion and the allocation has been increased to R9.5 billion for 2015 to subsidise about 415 000 university and further education & training college students.

Who can apply for a loan or bursary at the NFSAS?

  • SA Citizens in need of financial assistance
  • Accepted to study towards a first tertiary qualification at a registered South African University or University of Technology
  • Or studying towards a second higher education qualification required for a profession, e.g. LLB
  • Who have a good academic track record

What can you expect?

  • The fund provides loans to students in respect of their tuition fees, residence or private accommodation costs, food, books and travel
  • Bursaries are available to students studying towards qualifications in critical skills areas such as Science, Commerce, Health Science and Engineering. Bursaries are also available for studying Social Work, Teaching at public schools, vocational studies at TVET colleges and to students with disabilities
  • Additionally, if you receive a NSFAS loan and pass all your courses in an academic year, 40% of the loan will be converted to a bursary and will not have to be repaid.

What will the NSFAS expect from you?

You will only be expected to repay the loan once you start working but interest will start to accrue at 80% of the prime lending rate one year after you have graduated or dropped out. Once you start working, the loan repayments will be based on your earnings, starting at 3% of your gross annual salary.

How to apply

The application process is the same for both loans and/ or bursaries.

  1. Start the application process sooner rather than later!
  2. Before you apply for funding, you must first be accepted as a student by the university or tertiary institution. The National Career Advice Portal (NCAP) provides access to career information on career pathways, occupations and relevant education and training opportunities if you need help to find the right academic establishment.
  3. Once accepted, apply online at
  4. You will need a dossier of CERTIFIED documents detailing every aspect of your life and a large part of your parents’ or guardians’ lives too. All documents must be marked with your ID number as reference.
  5. If you have a disability, you must also complete Annexures A and B and submit these with your application form.
  6. In order to apply, you will need a cell phone number and active email address to communicate with the funding body throughout the process.
  7. If you require assistance in completing your application, contact the NSFAS contact centre on 0860 067 327, or the university or FET college where you intend to enrol.

The reality

The NSFAS does grant many loans and bursaries to students in need, but some deserving students will fall through the cracks due to limited funding and overwhelming demand for financial assistance. Aid is allocated based on need and if your parents have a combined annual income of more than R120 000, your application will likely be unsuccessful even though you still need help.

Additionally, your heritage and gender will most likely also play a role in the awarding of study aid if you consider the demographics of recipients 2007 -2009:

  • 45% – Male
  • 55% – Female
  • 93% – African
  • 7% – Other

 If you are unsuccessful in securing funding through the NSFAS, don’t despair

Here are other options to consider should your application to NSFAS be unsuccessful:

  • Eduloan is a private lender operating in the middle-income range of both public and private institutions and may provide an alternative solution.
  • Applying for a student loan through a commercial bank is another option, although these institutions usually require some collateral and also charge higher interest rates than the NSFAS.
  • Alternatively, you can approach the university or college where you want to enrol for advice and information about their loan and bursary schemes. Also, look at this list of bursaries available to South African students.

Whichever journey you follow, never stop pursuing your dreams. Should you need student accommodation close to campus, TheRoomLink offers various student accommodation options suitable to every budget. Get started by completing a Renter’s Profile today.