The original projections in terms of how much additional funding NSFAS would need for the extended academic year has now been cut down as we get closer to the end of the 2020 academic year.
NSFAS originally required R4.6 billion but as it was found that some higher education institutions will be able to finish the academic year during 2020, this total is now being brought down to R2.5 billion.
Minister in charge of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, said, “With revised plans and registrations received after July 2020, it has become clear that some institutions will complete the year within the normal time frame, and together with the annulment of trimester 3 for TVET colleges, the additional cost has now decreased to an estimated R2.5bn.”
The R2.5 billion will be used to cover extra student costs during the extended academic year and changes being made to learning systems due to Covid-19. Higher Education has been greatly affected by the pandemic and emergency learning programmes and plans had to be put in place.
The previous estimate of R4.6 billion was based on an extension of three months for all higher education institutions but now it has changed as the Department found some institutions will see students complete the 2020 academic year before the calendar year ends.
BusinessDay reported, “The additional funding required by the NSFAS, though now reduced, will put more pressure on government finances which are already in a dire state due to the health crisis.”
Initially, R28.5 billion was supposed to be used by NSFAS for the 2020 academic year. In May, Carolissen said that this extension would be an ‘increased liability’ to NSFAS as they would have to give out more money and pay students’ funds for those extra months as NSFAS is determined to support students.
The extra billions NSFAS would need to cover student costs will include payments for living and accommodation allowances as well as other monthly allowances and fees needed to cover the additional months students will be “at campus”.
Ten universities have indicated that they will end their academic year before the end of 2020, four are set to end in January 2021, seven in February 2021 and five in March 2021. These predictions are linked to whether they can support students and whether students have been given a reasonable opportunity to succeed.
Due to lockdown, National Senior Certificate (NSC) results will be announced on 23 February 2021. This would then result in the start of the academic year for first years will be staggered and only be between 8 March and 12 April.
Nzimande said the Department continues to engage with institution for plans for the academic year. He said, “we are really in a tight sit to finish this current academic year” and that there is also increased pressure put on the 2021 academic year.
Universities are now allowed to have 100% of their student body back on campus, as long as safety protocols are followed.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé