Impending Budget Cuts Threaten Financial Aid for Thousands of South African University Students

NSFAS Facing Severe Budget Constraints

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is at a critical juncture as it confronts potential budget cuts that could leave thousands of students without crucial financial support. This worrying development was highlighted by Masile Ramorwesi, the acting CEO of NSFAS, during a briefing to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education.

Projected Impact on Student Funding

Ramorwesi revealed staggering figures: a projected 10% reduction in university funding from the National Treasury’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) could result in 87,712 students being unfunded in the 2024 academic period, escalating to 120,976 by the 2024/25 academic year. The average cost per student is estimated at R63,935 for 2024 and R67,199 for 2025. With NSFAS’s budget for universities expected to be R41.9-billion for 2024/25 and R43.7-billion for 2025/26, the budget cut translates into a shortfall of billions.

Tertiary Institutions Express Concerns

The Universities South Africa (USAF) CEO, Dr. Phethiwe Matutu, and Professor Marianna Phutsisi from the South African Public Colleges Organisation (SAPCO) have voiced their concerns over NSFAS’s capacity to manage student accommodation allocations and the handling of funding appeals. Matutu highlighted the R45,000 accommodation cap introduced by NSFAS, which has resulted in substantial debts for many students.

NSFAS’s Challenges and Criticism

NSFAS has faced criticism from members of parliament for ongoing issues within the funding scheme. This criticism comes despite NSFAS presenting its new direct payment system earlier this year. The NSFAS Board Chairman, Ernest Khosa, discussed the recommendations from a probe by Werkmans Attorneys and advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, which include the termination of the former CEO’s contract and disciplinary actions against staff involved in the procurement process.

Students’ Union Calls for Clarity

The South African Union of Students, represented by Lukhanyo Daweti, has called for more clarity on direct payments and the companies facilitating them. Daweti emphasized the need for a more efficient appeals process, arguing that students should be informed promptly about rejections to prepare for appeals effectively.


This situation paints a concerning picture for the future of higher education funding in South Africa. With thousands of students at risk of losing their financial aid, the implications are far-reaching, affecting not only the individuals but also the broader educational landscape of the country. It is a pivotal moment for NSFAS and the South African government to find solutions that will prevent a significant setback in higher education accessibility and quality.