NSFAS Student Loan Review 2022

With a budget of R43 billion for the fiscal year 2022, NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) is South Africa’s largest student loan administrator. The NSFAS Student Loan is designed to help previously disadvantaged people who cannot afford higher education in South Africa.

Anyone studying at a registered tertiary institution in South Africa can apply for an NSFAS Student Loan. As a result, students from universities, colleges, and TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) may be eligible for the loan. When submitting an application, however, there is an income requirement that must be met.

Since NSFAS does not directly sponsor postgraduate studies in South Africa, only undergraduate programs are eligible for funding. NSFAS has joined with the National Research Foundation (NRF) to begin sponsoring postgraduate students as of April 2022.

NSFAS-NRF supported postgraduate students are those who have completed their undergraduate degree with NSFAS and wish to pursue a postgraduate degree. The postgraduate student loan is primarily for people with disabilities, those who have been previously disadvantaged, and women.

South Africans who require financial aid to pursue higher education can apply for an NSFAS Student Loan. NSFAS can help those who have been accepted into a postsecondary program and meet the basic requirements for a student loan.

We go over the National Student Financial Aid Scheme in greater depth below, including the eligibility requirements and more.

NSFAS Student Loan Summary

NSFAS is a bursary scheme supported by the Department of Higher Education (DHE), which has set aside R43,000,000,000.00 for the fiscal year 2022. The bursary is open to all South African nationals and has no age limitations, so anyone pursuing a tertiary education can apply.

Those on the SASSA (South African Social Security Agency) grant is automatically eligible for the NSFAS loan. Others who wish to apply for the bursary must have an annual household income of less than R350,000.00.

A particular minimum income criterion for people with disabilities is R600,000.00 per year in household income. The special disability minimum income is for people who are permanently disabled rather than those who are temporarily disabled.

A specific application criterion is available for people who began studying before 2018. A student who began studying prior to 2018 cannot have a total family income of more than R120,000.00 at the time of application.

NSFAS is available to students enrolled in a South African public university or a TVET college. In South Africa, NSFAS funds 191 TVET programs across all registered TVET colleges. Those who have completed grades 9 and 10 may be eligible for NSFAS assistance to attend a TVET College.

A grade 12 certification from Umelusi is required for university students. NSFAS support is available for study at any of South Africa’s 26 public universities.

How does the NSFAS Student Loan work? 

The NSFAS Student Loan is available to any South African resident, and the applicant must repay the loan at some point in the future, just like any other student loan if the loan was taken before 2018. Unlike any other student loan from a bank or other financial institution,  the NSFAS Student loan has fewer requirements for obtaining the loan and repaying it.

Even better for those that excel in academics. Those who excel in their postsecondary education are eligible to have a portion of their NSFAS loan converted into a bursary. If a student does well, 40% of the loan is converted to a bursary.

The student will only be responsible for paying back 60% of the entire debt. This is to encourage students to do better in their higher education, as the government strives to ensure that South Africa has a high level of trained labour.

Others will be required to repay the whole amount of the loan they were given. However, only those who earn R30,000.00 or more per year after completing their studies can begin making loan repayments.

Every cent that students repay goes towards assisting other South Africans who are pursuing their tertiary education. Since 2018, NSFAS has been a bursary with no repayment requirements. Only those who received assistance prior to 2018 are required to repay the loan.

How does NSFAS disburse funds? 

NSFAS will deposit funds into a student’s account at a public university or TVET college following a successful application. The applicant’s account will not be credited with any tuition funds. NSFAS will deposit one or more tuition payment(s) into the university or college’s student account.

The NSFAS bursary covers more than just tuition. Other advantages of the student bursary include, but are not limited to, textbooks, housing, and meals.

University and TVET College allowances differ slightly, with university students receiving slightly higher allowances than TVET College students. The allowance distribution by category is shown below.

TVET College Student Allowances

  • Basic transportation allowance of R7000.00. 
  • Transportation allowance of R7350.00 for transportation of up to 40km from the institution. 
  • Personal or incidental care allowance of R2900.00 per annum. 

University Student Allowances 

  • Learning material allowance/ book allowance of R7500.00 per year. 
  • Living allowance of R15,000.00 per year. 
  • Transport allowance of R7500.00 per year for up to 40km from the learning institution. 
  • Students who live in catered residents are entitled to a personal or incidental care allowance of R2900.00 per year.

It is obvious from the above that university students benefit more from NSFAS than those attending TVET colleges. Furthermore, university students are eligible for additional cost advantages to help cover their living expenditures while they are enrolled at university.

UNISA students, on the other hand, are eligible for a specific allowance category because the university is a distance learning institution. The allowances for UNISA students studying under NSFAS are listed below.

  • R2900.00 small expense allowance per annum for students that are registered for ten or more modules. 
  • R600.00 in learning material allowance per module for the first four modules. Alternatively, a student can choose to get a once-off R5200.00 if registered for 5 to 10 modules. 

Advantages of the NSFAS Student loan 

  • Anyone who is a South African citizen, regardless of age, is eligible for the NSFAS Student Loan.
  • Students from universities and TVET colleges are eligible to apply for the bursary.
  • Since 2018, NSFAS has been converted to a bursary, which does not require any payback of the funds awarded.
  • Transportation, living, and study material allowances are all available to university students.
  • Postgraduate students might be sponsored through the NRF sponsorship.
  • Students at universities and TVET colleges can also apply for accommodation funds through the NSFAS.
  • The NSFAS bursary is for people in South Africa who have disabilities.
  • NSFAS is accepted as payment at 25 public universities in South Africa.
  • NSFAS allows students from 50 TVET colleges in South Africa to apply for funding.
  • The NSFAS bursary application process is simple and can be completed entirely online, with the ability to upload supporting documents.
  • NSFAS funds around 480 000 students at universities and over 260 000 students at TVET colleges.
  • Females make up the majority of NSFAS recipients, accounting for more than 60% of all students.

Disadvantages of the NSFAS Student loan 

  • The bursary sometimes takes longer to disburse funds for tuition and allowances, making it harder for students to manage their finances while they study.
  • Before payments may be disbursed, orphans must have extra documents signed by a social worker that has to be submitted.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Do I have to pay NSFAS back? 

No, because NSFAS was converted to a bursary in 2018, there is no need to repay it. Those who used NSFAS to fund their education prior to 2018 must repay NSFAS because it was a loan at the time.

How much income should I earn to start repaying NSFAS? 

Previously funded students who took out an NSFAS loan prior to 2018 must be employed or running a business in order to begin making payments on their loan. Only those with an annual income of R30,000.00 or more will be required to repay NSFAS by debit order or EFT transfer to an NSFAS account.

Does NSFAS have an age limit? 

NSFAS doesn’t have an age limit, therefore, anyone who is a South African can apply for NSFAS bursary. 

Who can’t get financed by NSFAS? 

NSFAS cannot finance the following individuals:

  • Students with a combined household income of more than R350,000.00, 
  • Students who have completed a previous Qualification. 
  • Foreign students, and
  • Students who have already applied for NSFAS, qualified for NSFAS, received funding. 

How much is the NSFAS allowance? 

NSFAS has the following allowances available for students holding an NSFAS bursary or loan:

  • R2,900.00 per year personal care allowance and the allowance is paid monthly. 
  • R7,500.00 per year transport allowance and the allowance is paid monthly. 
  • R15,000.00 per year living allowance and the allowance is paid monthly. 
  • R7,500.00 per year study material allowance and the allowance is paid monthly. 

Which universities are funded by NSFAS bursary? 

NSFAS is accepted in 25 public universities in South Africa, these include:

  1. Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  2. Central University of Technology
  3. Durban University of Technology
  4. Mangosuthu University of Technology
  5. Monash University
  6. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
  7. North West University
  8. Rhodes University
  9. Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University
  10. Stellenbosch University
  11. Tshwane University of Technology
  12. University of Cape Town
  13. University of Fort Hare
  14. University of Johannesburg
  15. University of Kwazulu Natal
  16. University of Limpopo
  17. University of Mpumalanga
  18. University of Pretoria
  19. University of South Africa
  20. University of the Free State
  21. University of the Western Cape
  22. University of the Witwatersrand
  23. University of Zululand
  24. Vaal University of Technology
  25. Walter Sisulu University

Which colleges are funded by NSFAS? 

NSFAS is accepted in 50 TVET colleges in South Africa and they include:

  1. Boland College
  2. Buffalo City College
  3. Capricorn College
  4. Central Johannesburg College
  5. Coastal KZN College
  6. College of Cape Town
  7. Eastcape Midlands College
  8. Ehlanzeni College
  9. Ekurhuleni East College
  10. Ekurhuleni West College
  11. Elangeni College
  12. Esayidi College
  13. Ethekwini College
  14. False Bay College
  15. Gert Sibande College
  16. Goldfields TVET College 
  17. Ikhala College
  18. Ingwe College
  19. King Hintsa College
  20. King Sabata Dalindyebo College
  21. Letaba College
  22. Lephalale College
  23. Lovedale College
  24. Majuba College
  25. Maluti TVET College 
  26. Mnambithi College
  27. Mopani South East TVET College
  28. Motheo TVET College 
  29. Mthashana TVET College 
  30. Nkangala College
  31. Northern Cape Rural College
  32. Northern Cape Urban College
  33. Northlink College
  34. Orbit College
  35. Port Elizabeth College
  36. Sedibeng TVET College 
  37. Sekhukhune College
  38. South Cape College
  39. South West Gauteng College
  40. Taletso TVET College 
  41. Thekwini TVET College 
  42. Tshwane North College
  43. Tshwane South College
  44. Umfolozi College
  45. Umgungundlovu College
  46. Vhembe College
  47. Vuselela College
  48. Waterberg College
  49. West Coast College
  50. West College for TVET


For many years, NSFAS has been the largest donor to South Africa’s tertiary education budget. Some of the biggest benefits that some student bank loans do not provide are included in the bursary. As a result, any South African attending a postsecondary institution, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, should consider applying for an NSFAS bursary.

Except for those who had a student loan before 2018, since NSFAS is now a bursary, there is no need to repay the bursary. Students can also take care of additional things other than tuition fees now that NSFAS has funding available for allowances. The bursary can now cover housing, food, and textbooks, making school stress-free for individuals coming from low-income families.

NSFAS Student Loan Review 2022

Lethabo Ntsoane

Lethabo Ntsoane holds a Bachelors Degree in Accounting from the University of South Africa. He is a Financial Product commentator at Rateweb. He is an expect financial product analyst with years of experience in reviewing products and offering commentary. Lethabo majors in financial news, reviews and financial tips. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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