FINANCIAL AID BENEFICIARIES UNABLE TO SETTLE DEBT
Some Durban University of Technology graduates say lack of proper employment makes it hard to pay back student debt.
The National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) continues to urge its former beneficiaries to pay back their loans as it battles to help more students pay for their studies.
It says many graduates are failing to settle their debts which have risen to over 8 billion rand. During the unsettling university strikes in January, the Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande, mentioned that he has ordered a sector wide probe into the organization.
Twenty -seven -year old Richard Mthethwa graduated from the Durban University of Technology and obtained a national diploma in Operation Management Sciences in 2013. He relied on NSFAS to pay for his studies and accommodation.
Mthethwa owes NSFAS over R60 000 but as an intern at a retail store he only earns R2500 and says he can’t afford to pay the scheme R105 per month. With the amount of money he earns, he has to feed his family and have enough transport money to last him for the month.
“I haven’t been able to pay because I haven’t found a decent job to be able to pay back the money. I want to pay back so that other students can have a chance to study as well but financially I’m not stable enough to pay back the money,” said Mthethwa.
Mthethwa is one of thousands of graduates who can’t repay their loans because they are either unemployed or don’t get paid enough to pay back the debt.
By the end of the year 2014 NSFAS had supported over 1.4 million students but some beneficiaries haven’t paid back a cent for 19 years. NSFAS collects around R14 million a month from students it has supported but also writes off close to R1.4 million a year in bad debts.
Graduates are not the only ones who are way in over debt with NFSAS. Students currently studying are also in debt.
Sihle Ndlovu, a Civil engineering student, says that it is unsettling for NSFAS to stop funding a student before they finish their years of study.
As a result of such miscommunication, a student becomes fully responsible for the fees of the year while they were under the knowledge that they are funded.
“Institutions of higher learning are a passport to a better life but it’s still a daily struggle for many of us,especially those of us who don’t have a strong enough financial, muscle to further our studies. We depend on NSFAS. I’m a second year student. Lack of order and communication between students and the NSFAS Call Centre nearly hampered me from enrolling to civil engineering this year,” said Ndlovu.
NSFAS CEO, Msulwa Daca said that they expect students that are now working to pay from about 3% of their salary up to a maximum of 8% and then if they earn smaller salaries they take much longer to pay.
NSFAS has not taken legal action against any defaulters but has recently employed debt collectors to get some money back from graduates.