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What To Do If You Can’t Find Funding

by Francesca Matthys

For the past two years I have been adamantly investigating how I can continue my studies into Masters. This has included figuring out where to study, what to research and most importantly, how to actually pay for this study venture, through funding.

After hours of opening tab, after tab after tab it can feel as if you’re just clicking further and further into a dark pit which is actually just futile, with regards to what you actually need. Bottom line: finding funding that suits your specific needs can be a bit challenging. Alas, you can make your studies a reality. With the right resources, research and planning, it is possible to find what works for you.

Before we get into the more creative options, let’s have a run through of some more well-known ones.

First up: bursaries

Searching for a bursary is often the first port of call when you are trying to find funding. This is owing to the fact that bursaries are the most abundant form of funding available in South Africa (NSFAS alone issued approximately 255 557 bursaries in one year). Although bursaries are plentiful, there are unfortunately still not enough to go around for all the students who require them. Bursaries often don’t have super high marks requirements (like scholarships, for example), but can be dependant on socio-economic status or background.

Receiving a bursary often also means complying with the written agreement or contract compiled by the funding institution. This could involve requirements such as obtaining and maintaining a certain standard of marks throughout the duration of the course or participating in community work or projects. Companies may also offer students work contracts to work for them for a designated period of time, as an alternative for paying back the loan in monetary value.

These are all factors to seriously consider when opting for this route.

After all the controversy, NSFAS which was previously known as a loan scheme has transformed to a bursary structure which covers full tuition fees, registration fees, subsidised meal allowances, transport, books, and learning materials.

How about student loans?

There are two predominant loan routes to take in South Africa, applying for a loan from the bank or a private company.

If you, or a parent or guardian, have an income then you are likely to be eligible to apply for a student loan. However, most institutions require a parent or guardian to co-sign to provide surety of the loan.  The student is required to repay monthly installments of the loan once their course is completed.  However, in some instances, the rates accumulated by interest are required to be paid while the student is studying.

Interest is a major part of taking out a loan and different types of loans will have different rates of interest. A personal loan, for example, will have a fixed interest rate which is more convenient for budgeting, however, the interest rates are a lot higher than that of a student loan. 

This may not always be the most appealing option as once your studies are done, you’re still stuck with a large amount to pay back. These loans are also not void of interest but do often allow students 3-6 months after completing their studies, to start repaying their loan.

Here are some loan options to consider:

Tertiary studies are expensive, there’s no way around it. Luckily though, you have options to finance it – student loans in South Africa are a realistic option, and they are readily available.

What if those options don’t work for me?

As I mentioned above, there are certainly other ways to make your student life a reality.

Working while studying could possibly be a way to ease your financial burdens, however, it will take up more of your free time. Working in retail is a common way to make some bucks as a student and learn a different skill set. There are also many other work opportunities that don’t require long-term commitments.  There are many student-friendly jobs such as babysitting, waitering or doing promotions that can help you make some extra cash.   

What else is out there?

Another viable option is to study via correspondence which is a lot more affordable. Studying through correspondence is also a good way to save transport, accommodation and food costs. This, and studying part-time, is a great option for students who wish to work and study at the same time.  Loans are also available for this study choice however if you are studying part-time and paying for your studies, it is a more flexible way to manage shorter payments over a longer period of time.

There are also crowdfunding sites that are an easy and savvy way to raise money for your studies. This allows family and friends to contribute to your cause. If you have any skills like artistic skills, teaching skills, fitness skills, and administrative skills; you can offer them in return for some funding. The benefits of this sort of funding are that your money is in your hands. You’re able to share your story with a wide audience. It’s a good achievement to have on your CV and its debt free!

The downfalls of this way of fundraising are that it may cause you to feel extra pressure to do really well in your studies, as many people have so generously invested in you. Another is that if you don’t make your target, the money will be refunded back to your patrons/ donors.

Crowdfunding, however, is still a really cool option and you can be super creative by doing things like starting a blog or a YouTube/ Instagram page to update people on your progress and inform them on your cause.

Some crowdfunding sites to check out are:

EduConnect 2Cents

There’s no one way to fund a study programme and the fact that we are all individuals is more than enough reason for us to have different needs when it comes to our finances. Finding funding is all about searching for the option that works best for you.

Good luck! 🙂

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