The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has told MPs that it could encounter difficulties if President Jacob Zuma decided it should also cater for the so-called "missing middle" in the 2018 academic year.
NSFAS CEO Steven Zwane told Parliament's select committee on education the scheme was ready to provide financial assistance to the usual number of financially needy students.
On average, it funded about 500,000 students a year. It had completed 192,984 applications for 2018. Of these, the vast majority were by black and female applicants for university. Only 18,326 were for technical and vocational education training colleges.
Should the so-called "missing middle" be included in the scheme's mandate as a result of discussions around fee-free education and the Heher commission report, this would have "huge financial implications" and would require the NSFAS to have more administrators on board, Zwane said.
If the qualifying household income was adjusted to between R150,000 and R350,000 "we can modify our systems and be able to meet that need", he said.
"We would however need to engage differently if that figure moves to R600,000. That is a really big impact for us from a people side, a process side and a systems side."
The Heher report questions the need for the NSFAS in its proposed system of bankbacked loans and suggests that it should perhaps only deal with students going to technical and vocational education training colleges. Zwane said the question whether "there is a necessity for NSFAS to continue to exist caused a little discomfort to the team in the office so we need to engage them".Source: Business Day