Is NSFAS a Bursary or Loan

Is NSFAS a Bursary or Loan? A Simple and Complete Breakdown of 2024?

Is NSFAS a Bursary or Loan? What is it according to your knowledge? If you don’t, that’s no problem; in this article, I’ll discuss what NSFAS loans and bursaries are. The primary aim of NSFAS is to support South African Students financially to cover tertiary education expenses.

NSFAS functions as a bursary for competent and eligible students, which means that there is no need to repay funds if you meet certain academic requirements. However, part of the funding is in the shape of a loan for living expenses, which should be repaid based on the individual’s circumstances.

What Is an NSFAS Loan?

The NSFAS loan is a program of financial aid in South Africa specially designed to give loans and bursaries to eligible and competent students from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds to assist them in covering their tertiary education.

This loan can be utilized for the payment of your tuition fees, accommodation, books, and other expenses of study. The term repayment is generally easy and simple, with low interest rates, and the process of repayment starts once the receiver starts earning above a certain threshold. 

NSFAS Funding

The government agency NSFAS gives financial aid to needy students who require help in payment for higher education. NSFAS is managed by DHET (Department of Higher Education and Training); it provides support to low-income and disadvantaged background students to attend public universities or TVET colleges.

Is NSFAS A Bursary Or Loan?

Until the end of 2017, NSFAS operated as a loan program, but from 2018 onwards, it transitioned into a bursary program. You can avail of financial help from NSFAS to make payment for your education at any South African public university or TVET college.

The financial aid covers living expenses, books, tuition fees, food, and travel costs. After completion of your studies and finding a job or work, you must make repayment of the loan. However, an NSFAS loan can be changed into a bursary of up to 40%, with no need to repay; it depends on your academic performance.

Loans Vs. Bursaries

According to the financial circumstances and academic performance, NSFAS provides both loans and bursaries to students of disadvantaged classes.

Loans: NSFAS also supports through study loans to the competent and eligible students, additionally to bursaries. However, NSFAS loans offer favourable terms, such as low or zero interest rates and income-contingent repayment plans.

Bursaries: A bursary is a financial aid term in which there is no need to require repayment. A bursary aid is given on the basis of financial need or academic merit. The students who are the receivers of NSFAS bursaries are not required to repay the funds they received. The bursary has the coverage of tuition fees, accommodation, and other important educational expenses.

Interest-Free Loans: The most significant advantage of NSFAS loans is that they’re fully interest-free during the period of study. It means that the students do not have to pay interest on their loans during the period of their education, easing the financial burdens associated with repayments.

Income-Contingent Repayment: The NSFAS repayment model is an income-contingent model where the students have to make repayments on their income level after graduation. This level of approach makes sure that the repayments of loans remain easy and affordable, and associated with the financial capacity of graduates. 

Application Process

To get access to the NSFAS funding, students should meet the specific eligibility criteria and submit applications through the NSFAS online portal. The process of application needs detailed information about your household income, academic performance and other related details. 

NSFAS Application Eligibility Requirements 2025

The applicants who wish to benefit from NSFAS must meet the given below criteria for NSFAS financial aid:

  • Applicants must meet the following criteria:
  •  Be a South African citizen or permanent resident.
  • Be a SASSA grant recipient.
  •  Have a combined gross household income of no more than R350,000 per year (or R600,000 for applicants with disabilities).
  • Have a valid email account and cell phone number.

 The applicants who desire to submit their application with NSFAS have to submit the following documents below:

Students with disabilities must provide:

  • A duly filled and signed Disability Annexure A Form

Students recognized as vulnerable children must provide the following:

  • An applicant who is declared a vulnerable child by the Department of Social Development(DSD) must submit a duly completed Vulnerable Child Declaration form endorsed by a qualified social worker.

Other documents that may be required, if applicable:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Retrenchment letter
  • Death certificate/s
  • Proof of legal guardianship
  • Divorce Decree
  • Other documents may be required for appeal purposes, e.g., a retrenchment letter

How to Apply for NSFAS

NSFAS provides opportunities for applicants to submit online applications through the official website or on the NSFAS application. This process generally has the following steps:

  • Create a profile:

If you’re a new user, then you’ve to create a profile on myNSFAS account by following this link: or by using the NSFAS application after downloading it from Google Play or App Store. Your Identification number will be your username.

  • Apply now:

To apply, click on the option “Apply” tab for the updation of your personal information and upload all your supporting documents related to your application as mentioned. 

  • Complete:

Submit your application

Before clicking on submit your application option, you must ensure all information provided is correct to avoid mistakes or delays. 

NSFAS Contact Information

  • Website:
  • Email: [email protected]
  • South African students: 0860 067 327
  • International students: +27 21 763 3232
  • Physical Address: 10 Brodie Road, Wynberg, Cape Town, South Africa, 7700
  • Postal Address: Private Bag X1, Plumstead, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, 7801

Conclusion-Is NSFAS A Bursary Or Loan?

I hope you’ve learned a lot about this topic: “Is NSFAS a bursary or loan?” NSFAS supports eligible students with both bursaries and loans that are specially designed for the individual needs of the students. Whether you’re a bursary beneficiary or a loan receiver, a lot of things depend on your financial need or academic performance.

By keeping in mind the distinction between bursaries and loans offered by NSFAS, students are informed of the decision with regard to their financial aid choices and pursue their educational responsibilities or goals with confidence.


The NSFAS bursary is financial aid provided by the South African government to help students pay for university or college expenses. To qualify, applicants must be South African citizens, demonstrate financial need, meet academic requirements, be enrolled at an accredited institution, and apply within the specified deadline.

This support is aimed at students from low-income families who cannot afford tertiary education costs on their own.

Since December 2017, most of the NSFAS funds that are awarded have been classified as bursaries, which don’t require a payback.

However, the loans before December 2017 or funds that were under specified conditions, like Lushaka Bursary or the Funza, do need to be repaid upon meeting special criteria. 

 NSFAS primarily gives bursaries for the coverage of tuition fees, accommodation, and other expenses for tertiary education. There is no need to repay these bursaries under certain conditions, such as maintaining academic progress.

NSFAS focuses on assisting financially disadvantaged students to access education in South Africa, unlike traditional sponsors.

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