NSFAS writes off R1.96bn in historic debt – Belinda Bozzoli

DA MP wants to know what criteria was used, and who pays for costs associated with this

NSFAS writes off R1.96 billion in historic debt

3 June 2020

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is currently in the process of writing off R1.963 billion in historic debt.

This was revealed in a response by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Blade Nzimande, to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question.

The DA calls on Minister Nzimande to give clarity on two things:

What criteria have been used to write off this debt? and

Who pays for the costs associated with the written-off debt, which is at present most likely carried by universities themselves?

As far as the criteria are concerned: If the process of clearing historic debt is based solely on non-payment by past beneficiaries, it is an indictment on NSFAS – for not collecting monies owed to it - and those individual beneficiaries for failing to pay back.

But if the process is based on previous beneficiaries not being able to pay due to long-term and persistent unemployment, it’s an indictment on the government, who have overseen the growth and consolidation of an unprecedented and horrifying unemployment crisis in our country.

While the DA supports NSFAS writing off the historic debt of qualifying poor students who are currently studying, we cannot condone NSFAS writing off the historic debt of those who are able but unwilling to pay, and who may never have been forcefully required, by NSFAS, to pay.

NSFAS has never been any good at recovering monies owed to them, and this has led to a grave injustice. Individuals who obtained a good job after their graduation have simply been let off the hook, robbing current and future students of an opportunity to access higher education opportunities. They should have been compelled to honour their responsibilities.

On the second issue, if universities are currently carrying the debt (in the form of fees or accommodation not paid) will the writing off of the debt mean that the universities will have to write it off too? If so, this might prove unaffordable for many universities, most of which are struggling financially themselves at present.

Issued byBelinda Bozzoli,DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, 3 June 2020