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UCT’s new plan to deal with student debt

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Students allowed to register if they convert debt into a new loan

Picture of student fee protest
UCT is to allow students with debt to register if they take out a new loan. Photo by Masixole Feni.
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UCT has come up with a plan to deal with the debt of students who were on financial aid in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Previously students who owed the university money were unable to register for the next academic year or to graduate. 

Under the new plan, students who are eligible for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme may convert their debt into a NSFAS loan, meaning that they may register for the upcoming year. 

Financial aid recipients in 2013 and 2014 who passed at least 50% of their courses but left UCT because they were in debt and couldn’t register, will be eligible to have their debt converted to a loan and register to study in future should they wish to.

Students who were funded by NSFAS before 2015 but were not on financial aid in 2015, and are in debt, must write to the Appeals Committee explaining their case.

The final category are 2015 UCT Gap funding students - students who were not eligible for NSFAS funding because their family income was too high but whose families earned less than R550,000 a year and qualified for funding directly from UCT. Gap funding students with outstanding debt to UCT may also appeal to the Appeals Committee, which will consider the “size of the debt, payment effort, academic performance, available funds, family circumstances”. The students will then be told whether they can register or how much of their total debt they still need to repay.

The new plan will be funded by the government’s additional funding to the NSFAS and UCT’s own resources.

Postgraduate students will not benefit from the new plan as they are funded through the postgraduate funding office, which is “not affected by this new approach”, UCT says. Students from countries in the Southern African Development Community and other foreign students will not benefit either, says the university, since “all NSFAS and UCT financial aid is geared towards supporting South African students.”

UCT’s statement also makes provision for students on financial aid with outstanding debts not to lose their place in a university residence as long as they have completed a loan agreement. Gap funding students need to pay back whatever the Appeals Committee decides, before they are able to move into residence.

Yesterday UCT’s Rhodes Must Fall collective set up a stand on UCT lower campus for students to submit their stories of financial or residence exclusion. Students who were not given a place in a residence for 2016 and are currently in residence for their deferred exams were also encouraged to hand in their names.

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TOPICS:  Education

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