Sizwe Nxasana, center, at media briefing on Jan. 21 discussing budget allocations for NSFAS.

Americans aren’t the only ones struggling to pay for college. South Africa’s federal financial aid organization, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), announced last Sunday, February 17th, that more than 50,000 students in South Africa who were relying on financial aid to pay for tuition and housing did not qualify.

According to Sizwe Nxasana, the chairperson of the NSFAS, there are two main reasons why the applicants didn’t qualify: students’ families earned too much money or students had poor academic performance.

There were more than 160,000 applications received, and 53,043 were unsuccessful. More than 3,500 are still being reviewed. Students whose families earned above the R122,000 limit were disqualified. In addition, students who passed more than 50 percent of their modules but exceeded the regulated times for the modules’ completion did also not qualify for aid.

Because of the high number of rejections, there have been rampant student protests about the lack of student housing at various campuses of Tshwane University of Technology. As a result, the school has shut down three of its campuses. In addition, students at the University of Pretoria posted photos on social media of students sleeping in toilets and passages because they weren’t placed in housing.

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But NSFAS pointed out that they were not responsible for what happened at Tshwane University or the University of Pretoria since the organization doesn’t make decisions on where students should be placed—that is up to the individual schools.

Nxasana said that they are aware that the system has not run smoothly and apologized to students. The good news is that these students can appeal the decision as long as their paperwork is in by February 28.

The higher education department allotted R15 billion for this academic year, with more than 300,000 students expected to be funded by NSFAS. Another 100,000 students are expected to be funded since the application closing last Friday.

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