Frequently Asked Questions
What is a student loan?
A student loan is the money you borrow from NSFAS to cover the costs of your studies at any of the 25 public universities in South Africa. This includes: tuition fees, residence or private accommodation, food, books and travel costs. This loan must be repaid to NSFAS when you finish studying and find employment. Depending on your results, up to 40% of your NSFAS study loan may be converted into a bursary, which you do not need to repay.
What documents do I need when I apply?
When you apply for NSFAS funding, you must attach all of the following documents:
How to apply on line for financial assistance?
Go to www.nsfas.org.za
How do I repay the student loan?
NSFAS student loans are income-contingent, which means that repayment commences when you start working. NSFAS will send you statements to help you keep track of how much you owe. It is your legal responsibility to keep in touch with NSFAS and to inform us of any change of address.
Does NSFAS pay registration costs for first-year and returning students?
Yes, but only for students whose Expected Family Contribution measures 0 on the means test. Registration costs are usually the first payment towards your tuition costs, and if you have been confirmed for funding by NSFAS, most of the universities and TVET colleges will not expect you to pay the registration fees upfront.
What happens to any money left over from my NSFAS student loan?
Money left over from an NSFAS study loan is never paid out to you. The money is deducted from the balance you owe. You will not have to pay interest on it, and NSFAS will have more funds to help other students like you. Funds paid back to NSFAS are used as your first repayment of your student loan.
Do students have to pay the money back after completing their studies?
Yes, once they have started working and are earning more than R30 000 a year, they must start to pay back the loan.
How do I repay the student loan?
NSFAS has made repayments affordable for you. Repayments of your student loan are based on the salary that you earn, and start once your salary is R30 000 or more per year. The repayment amount starts at a calculation of 3% of your annual salary, increasing to a maximum of 8% when your salary reaches R59 300 or more per year. For example, this means you will repay R900 on a salary of R30 000 a year, or R75 per month. Once your annual salary reaches R59 300 your repayment will be R4 744 a year or R395 a month. You can opt to pay more than this to reduce the interest you will be charged over the life of your loan and to pay your loan off over a shorter period of time.
Interest is charged at 80% of the repo rate, which is the repurchase rate at which the Reserve Bank lends to commercial banks. NSFAS will continue to charge interest on all outstanding balances, making it imperative that you start repaying your loan as soon as possible.
How do you ensure that students pay back the money?
All students sign a legally binding contract to repay their loans. NSFAS contacts all students who graduate, or stop studying, to give consent for repayments to be deducted from their bank account every month.
How many students pay back each year?
About 84 500 students pay back their student loans each year, making total repayments an estimated R45 million a month, or R540 million a year.
What is the process of paying back a loan, and how much time do students have to do this?
Students pay back based on a sliding scale between 3% and 8% of salary. Those who are unemployed are not expected to repay. No time limit is given for repayment, since this is determined by the salary of the debtor, and his or her ability to repay.
What happens if a student loses his/her job while still paying back their loan?
Those who are unemployed are not expected to repay, but must inform NSFAS whenever their employment status changes.
What measures are taken against students who fail to pay their debt after being funded by NSFAS?
NSFAS actively engages students about the importance of repaying their debt. Agencies are also used to trace debtors and make sure they repay.
What about students who drop out during their studies?
Students who drop out are still required to repay their loan when they start earning R30 000 or more a year.
When and how is a loan converted into a bursary?
Different loans have different rules about conversion. Up to a maximum of 40% of a general loan is converted into a bursary when a student passes all of the courses they were registered for in that year. Students who apply at their institution's Financial Aid Office to be on the NSFAS Final-Year Programme have their final-year loans converted into a 100% bursary if they pass all of their final-year courses and qualify to graduate. If they do not pass all subjects, the conversion applicable to general loans is applied.
How do these bursary conversions show on NSFAS repayments?
The bursary conversion shows as a rebate on your statement when NSFAS receives your academic results from the university. This takes place at the end of the NSFAS financial year.
Your academic results are used to calculate any bursary rebates: for example, 40% of your student loan will be converted into a bursary if you pass all courses; if you pass half of your courses, then 20% of the student loan will be converted into a bursary. If you don't pass any courses, you will not receive any bursary rebate for that academic year and you will have to repay 100% of your student loan.
Is it true that the NSFAS loans of successful third-year university students do not need to be repaid?
Students in their final year of study, who qualify to graduate if they pass all their courses, are eligible to be funded through the Final-Year Programme, a fund announced by the President in 2011. You may apply to be part of this programme at your institution's Financial Aid Office. Should a Final-Year Programme student successfully graduate, the loan is converted to a 100% bursary. Students can only benefit from this programme once.