What is NSFAS? How Does It Work?

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is a government-funded financial scheme that aims to assist students who do not have the financial means to have access to tertiary education.

They established this initiative along with the Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa (TEFSA) under the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Act of 1999.

Their mission is for NSFAS to become an efficient and effective financial provider to students from poor and working-class families. To promote access, and success toward higher and further education and training towards the development of South Africa’s national and human resource goals.

They exist to provide financial aid to eligible students at TVET colleges and public universities, provide bursaries and loans, collect loan repayments to assist other students who may need financial assistance to further their studies.

Financial aid is available through the opportunities of bursaries and student loans. This allows students who need financial aid to have their studies financed with an accredited public university or Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college.

The NSFAS provides financial aid to students including those who are disabled and can continue with academic subjects. Opening opportunities in higher education, providing support, and additional teaching to overcome challenges resulting from disabilities.

Household income should be less than R120,000 per year and although this benefits the disadvantaged, it does not consider the middle class in the system. Some households earning less than R600,000 annually cannot afford the fees, accommodation, and living expenses that are part of tertiary studies. This category of students cannot qualify for financial aid and unable to finance studies themselves providing the opportunity for students to study and further their career prospects.

As of 2021 NSFAS no longer fund postgraduate courses. This includes the Postgraduate Certificates, Diplomas, Honours, Degrees, Masters, and Ph.D. Degrees. Students are encouraged to contact the National Research Foundation (NRF).

How Does NSFAS Work?

They encourage students to apply for financial aid, however, there are certain conditions. NSFAS will determine who is financially needy through their system called a ‘means test’. This will find out whether the applicant will qualify for the bursary or loan and what amount the student requires. Those who receive SASSA grants will not need to go through the ‘means testing’.

NSFAS administers the bursaries and loans to eligible students who are academically sound. TVET bursaries are only funded to students who have passed all high school grades.

NSFAS does not pay the funds directly to the student, but to the institution, allowing NSFAS to keep an academic report on those who have received financial aid.

Currently, this system is undergoing changes to make financial aid possible for those who fall under the missing middle. Those who are too poor to attend University, but not poor enough to qualify for government funding.

How Does NSFAS Help Students?

NSFAS can pay for students’ registration fees effectively without delays. Students can apply for a bursary or loan easily. Before applying students can download the Application User Guide available on the NSFAS website and register online by creating a MyNSFAS profile on the student portal. Students must ensure all relevant uploaded documentation as specified, is correct.


NSFAS offers students the opportunity to study at 26 public universities and 50 TVET colleges nationwide, you can find one closest to you from the NSFAS website.

Who is Eligible for NSFAS?

Only South African citizens and SASSA grant recipients can apply for financial aid. If your combined household income is less than R350,000 annually, and the same for disabled individuals, a household may not exceed R600,000 annually.

Foreign students are not eligible for this loan, nor students who have previously completed a qualification, nor those who have already applied, qualified, and received financial aid from NSFAS.

Orphans and children with unemployed parents and all learners from no-fee schools may also apply.

If you began your studies before 2018 and do not have an income of more than R122,000 annually then may also apply for the NSFAS loan.

Is NSFAS a Bursary or a Loan?

The NSFAS offers loans to students attending National Universities and bursaries to students attending TVET institutions.

 NSFAS will cover the following for National Universities:

  • Tuition fees, as long as you meet your academic requirements and pass the modules and coursework.
  • Accommodation will cover the standard cost charged by a university residence. It will not cover private accommodation.
  • Transport traveling to university can be a challenge for many, they provide funds to support students traveling up to 40km from a university. The amount is usually around R10,000 annually.
  • They provide students with a personal care allowance of R2,750 annually.
  • They provide students with a living allowance which is R14,400 annually, and a book allowance of R5,000 annually.

Students can now order their laptops through NSFAS Digital Learning Device Online Order form, however, the cost will come off the learning material allowance.

There is only a slight difference between the two allowances for students. The tuition fee coverage remains the same.

NSFAS will cover the following for TVET Institutions:

  • Accommodation in an urban area totals around R24,000 annually, and in a peri-urban area (the location between the city center and outskirts of a central town) is R18,000 annually. An allowance of R15,000 is provided for students occupying a rural area.
  • They cover transport up to 40km from an Institution which totals R10,000 annually.
  • They provide personal care allowance to students with the same amount as those studying at Universities which is R2,750 annually.
  • A personal care budget of R2,850 is allocated annually to those students in catered residence.

Do You Have to Payback the loan to NSFAS?

Yes, the NSFAS loan will need to be repaid. The student borrows the money to cover the study costs. The loan only needs to be repaid after completing the qualification, upon leaving the University or College, found employment / in business, earning R30,000 or more annually.

TVET College students do not need to pay back the money as they receive bursaries that are administered by NSFAS.

For further information you can click on the links below:

Download the WhatsApp Video: 

Download NFAS Information Poster

Download NFAS Application Brochure

Download Career Help Outreach Information Brochure

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