Funding model for ‘missing middle’ students welcomed as step in right direction

todayJanuary 15, 2024 77

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The Department of Higher Education has unveiled a new comprehensive student funding model for the ‘missing middle’ students.
This category of students is those who come from families who have a total income of more than R350 000, but not more than R600 000 per annum.
The students were previously regarded as ‘not poor enough’ to qualify for NSFAS funding, but were also unable to afford university fees to study further.
The frustration over the students’ lack of funding sparked the 2015 student protests, known as the #FeesMustFall.
The protests, which began at the Wits University, continued until 2017, after having spread to other institutions in the country, leaving R600 million worth of damage to property.
Minister Nzimande announced the initiative yesterday, at a time when anxiety and uncertainty peaks for many students as registration fully gets underway at the country’s tertiary institutions.
He says the funding model for the ‘missing middle’ is divided into two phases and will be administered by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
It will be applicable to both Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and university students.
R3.8 billion has been allocated for the first phase of the loan scheme in 2024.
“This amount will fund 47% of the missing middle students, that is, 31 884 of the estimated 68 446 missing middle students,” says Nzimande.
He says the department will ensure that the seed funding contribution by the government  is increased to R31.6 billion to R42.1 billion over 10 years.
In order to qualify as a beneficiary, below are some of the requirements:
– Students whose annual household income is between R350 000-R600 000
  • TVET and University students
  • Students can apply for the loan in year 1, 2,3 etc. in order to continue to be funded through the loan.
  • Student are expected to get an average of 60% pass rate
  • The fund will cover tuition, learning material and accommodation
Minister Nzimande says students, who obtain 70% or above on average and within prescribed time, will get a 50% reduction on the loan on request.
The South African Union of Students says the move by the government has been long overdue.
The union’s spokesperson, Asive Dlanjwa, says ‘missing middle’ students have suffered for far too long.
“It is definitely a stride towards broadening access to the students of the poor and the working class.”
He says the fact that the scheme will be able to fund 47% of the ‘missing middle’ is commendable and is a step in the right direction.
Education activist, Hendrick Makaneta, has shared the same sentiments as the students’ union.
“We just hope that the funds will be sufficient for the many students who do not qualify for NSFAS or loans in the banks.”
Makaneta adds that he hopes Nzimande and his department will be able to safeguard the funds.

Written by: Lindiwe Mpanza

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