Overview of the University NSFAS Allowances Onboarding Process in 2023. In 2023, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) introduced a new system for disbursing student allowances, which aimed to enhance students’ control over their funds. This implementation has attracted significant attention since its inception.
Introduction of the Direct Payment System
The NSFAS unveiled a direct allowance payment system to offer students more financial autonomy and confidence in the disbursement of their allowances. Recently, Minister of Higher Education Nzimande was questioned regarding the system’s implementation, notification to institutions, the onboarding process, and challenges faced by students.
Notification to Institutions and Onboarding
Minister Nzimande explained that the 2023 NSFAS Eligibility Criteria and Conditions For Financial Aid were issued in December 2022. These criteria outlined that NSFAS would provide institutions with a minimum of three months’ notice before assuming full responsibility for allowances.
Subsequently, on March 3, 2023, NSFAS notified universities that the direct allowance disbursement would commence on June 1, 2023. A follow-up notice on May 26, 2023, specified that the first direct payment would occur on the last day of June 2023, with institutions instructed to continue processing June allowances.
University NSFAS Bank Account Onboarding
Following these notifications, the last NSFAS allowance payments by institutions took place in June 2023. Students were encouraged to onboard themselves onto the NSFAS bank account system, facilitated through partnerships with four fintech service providers.
Students were required to register with the designated fintech partner associated with their institution. Failure to register with the fintech partner would result in students not receiving their allowances.
By the end of June 2023, 24 universities successfully transitioned to the direct payment system, ensuring that their students received allowances through direct payments. However, two universities, Stellenbosch University and Northwest University, joined the program later and disbursed August 2023 allowances, missing the July 2023 payments.
Challenges in the Transition
Minister Nzimande acknowledged that the transition to the new direct payment system came with its share of challenges. These challenges included cyber attacks, resistance from institutions, incorrect allowance payments, and high bank charges.
Cyberattacks led to the implementation of robust cybersecurity measures to enhance system security. Resistance from various stakeholders necessitated ongoing engagement to address concerns and emphasize the benefits of the new system. Incorrect allowances resulted from inaccurate registration data, leading to the introduction of an adjustment window for institutions to rectify their data. Concerns about direct payment charges were negotiated, resulting in a reduction from R89 to R12, with further discussions planned for the future.
NSFAS Termination of Contracts with Service Providers
NSFAS is set to terminate contracts with service providers responsible for the direct payment of student allowances. This decision follows a careful review of findings from an investigation into potential conflicts of interest in the appointment of these service providers.
The review, conducted by Werksmans Attorneys, revealed possible relationships between key individuals, including CEO Nongogo, and the fintech companies appointed for direct allowance payments to students.
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