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Does NSFAS pay for bridging courses?

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Exploring which courses NSFAS covers, why it does not pay for bridging courses in South Africa, and the difference between bridging courses and TVET short courses.

Overview

The cost of funding higher education after high school is not something that everyone can afford. Many students find themselves struggling to fund their higher education studies at a university or a technical and vocational education and training (TVET) college, but this is where the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) comes into play.

Many South African students turn to NSFAS for financial assistance to study at a university or TVET college education, because they cannot afford to pay their own fees. NSFAS funds your university and TVET fees under certain conditions but let us take a look at whether those with bridging courses will be funded by NSFAS as well.

NSFAS and bridging courses

Bridging courses are otherwise known as short courses for a shorter duration, unlike the longer duration of a degree. They can be as short as a few months to a year. Bridging courses provide a means for students to qualify for specific study programmes and to work towards securing a spot in their ideal fields of study and, eventually, career paths. A student can decide to do a bridging course if they have not done as well as they had hoped to in their NSC matric results. The course helps boost their university admission chances.

Does NSFAS pay for bridging courses?

It can be disappointing to find that you have not performed as well as you hoped to in order to secure a spot in your institution of choice. Though, this does not have to mean it is the end of the world, as there are other options available to improve your chances of getting accepted into your tertiary programme of choice. Taking a bridging course is one solution for which you will need funding. Some students might consider finding out if NSFAS funds bridging courses.

Unfortunately, NSFAS does not allocate funding for bridging courses, but only covers approved funded programmes that are undergraduate whole qualifications such as a university degree or a diploma for three years or more.

TVET short courses versus bridging courses

One might look at the TVET requirements and the courses offered by TVET colleges and assume that the short courses are the same as bridging courses. TVET short courses are developed for the advancement of skills needed by employers and are not an entry course to a university programme. There are certain TVET short and diploma course programmes that NSFAS will fund, but they are not the same as bridging courses. TVET courses also vary in duration from a few hours to three years.

What NSFAS covers for universities and TVET colleges?

NSFAS endeavours to assist in the financing of higher education at universities and TVET colleges. The funding covers the costs of different types of accommodation for the student, the costs of transport, and will offer the student certain allowances such as living allowances, book allowances, and money for other learning materials that are required for the duration of their studies. Furthermore, they provide incidental or personal care allowance for students that are in catered residences. All of these provisions need to be aligned with the latest approved DHET guidelines.

Who can and cannot apply for NSFAS?

If you are a South African citizen, a SASSA recipient, have a combined household income of no more than R350 000 per annum, are a person with a disability with a combined household income of no more than R600 000 per annum, and are a student who started studying before 2018 from a household with no more than R122 000 per annum, then you qualify for NSFAS funding. You cannot apply if you have previously completed a qualification, have a combined annual income of R350 000 and more, or are receiving NSFAS funding already.

Final thoughts

Higher education is not a luxury every student can afford after completing high school. This can be due to a lack of funding to get a tertiary education, or not getting the results you had hoped for to be admitted into a tertiary institution of your choice.

Some students will do a bridging course to aid them in securing entry into their dream university. Unfortunately, NSFAS does not fund bridging courses and will only provide assistance to whole TVET college courses and undergraduate courses in the form of degrees or diplomas.

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