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Product Guide: NSFAS

Student Loans for university students

NSFAS assists students who have the academic potential to succeed at university and who qualify in terms of the NSFAS Means Test for financial aid.

What is a Student Loan from NSFAS?

A student loan is the money you borrow from NSFAS to cover the costs of your studies at any of the 25 public universities in South Africa. The costs include tuition fees, residence or private accommodation costs, food, books and travel. This loan must be repaid to NSFAS when you have finished studying. Depending on your results, up to 40% of your NSFAS study loan may be converted into a bursary and you do not need to repay that amount.

NSFAS has very reasonable repayment terms, which are based on what you earn after you leave university. All loans that are repaid are used to fund other students who also need financial assistance. NSFAS gives loans to students without the need for guarantees or sureties from parents or guardians.


NSFAS has introduced a new system called sBux to pay students for food, accommodation, books and travel allowances.

What documents do I need when I apply?

When you apply for a NSFAS student loan, you must attach all the documents listed below:

  • Grade 12 Certificate.
  • South African Identity Document.
  • Proof of parent’s income.
  • Proof of registration at school, college or university of brothers and sisters who live in the same household.
  • Proof of registration can be obtained at the institutions where your brothers and sisters are registered at.
  • Certified copies of their Birth Certificates and their Identity Documents.
  • If you have a permanent disability, a letter from your doctor to confirm proof of disability.
  • Letter of acceptance from the public university or college where you have applied to study.

How do I repay the student loan?

NSFAS student loans are income-contingent. This means that repayment starts only when you have an income, usually when you start working. NSFAS will send you statements showing how much you owe and how much you must pay back each month.

It is your legal responsibility to keep in touch with NSFAS and to inform them of any change of address.

How are repayments calculated?

NSFAS has made repayments affordable for you. Repayments of your student loan are based on the salary that you earn, and start once your salary is R30 000 or more per year.

Payments start at 3% of your annual salary, increasing to a maximum of 8% when your salary reaches R59 300 or more per year. For example, this means you will pay back R900 a year on a salary of R30 000 a year, or R84 per month.

When your salary is R59 300 you will pay back R4 744 a year or R696 a month. NSFAS charges lower interest rates than banks. Interest is charged at 80% of the repo rate, which is the repurchase rate at which the Reserve Bank lends to commercial banks. NSFAS will continue to charge interest on all outstanding balances. It is therefore very important to start repaying your loan as soon as possible.

How will I repay the loan if I am unemployed or still studying?

You do not have to repay if you are unemployed or still studying, but you do have to provide written proof (in the form of an affidavit, valid for 3 months) to say that you are unemployed.

Please stay in contact with NSFAS and make sure that information such as your employment status and your personal details, including address and cellphone numbers, are up to date.

Does NSFAS pay registration costs for first-year and returning students?

Yes, but only for students where the Expected Family Contribution is 0 on the Means Test.

How is part of a NSFAS loan converted into a bursary that does not have to be repaid?

Up to 40% of your student loan may be converted into a bursary and does not have to be repaid, depending on your year-end results. NSFAS checks these results with the university at the end of every year of study.

Final Year Programme

Students in their final year of study, who will qualify to graduate at the end of the year, are eligible to be funded through the Final Year Programme. This is a special funding programme which was launched by the President in 2011. If you graduate in your final year, the loan is converted to a 100% bursary.  Students can only benefit from the Final Year Programme one time.

How do these bursary conversions show on NSFAS accounts?

Bursary rebates and your credit balance appear on your statement when NSFAS receives your academic results and refunds from the university. This takes place at the end of the NSFAS financial year in April.

Your academic results are used to calculate any bursary rebates: for example, 40% of your student loan will be converted into a bursary if you pass all courses; if you pass half of your courses, then 20% of the student loan will be converted into a bursary. If you don’t pass any courses, you will not receive any bursary rebate for that academic year and you will have to repay 100% of your student loan.

What happens to any money left over from my NSFAS student loan?

Money left over from a NSFAS study loan is never paid out to you. The money is deducted from the balance you owe. You will not have to pay interest on it, and NSFAS will have more funds to help other students like you. Funds paid back to NSFAS are used as your first repayment of your student loan.

Some Background on NSFAS

To transform NSFAS into an efficient and effective provider of financial aid to students from poor and working class families in a sustainable manner that promotes access to, and success in, higher and further education and training in pursuit of South Africa’s national and human resource development goals.

The mission statement is made up of three distinct elements which describe why NSFAS exists, what they do, and the impact on their constituency:

  1. NSFAS exists to provide financial aid to eligible students at public TVET colleges and public universities.
  2. NSFAS identifies eligible students, provides loans and bursaries and collects student loan repayments to replenish the funds available for future generations of students.
  3. NSFAS supports access to, and success in, higher education and training for students from poor and working class families who would otherwise not be able to afford to study.


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