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How to Fund your Studies in South Africa?

by Staff Reporter

Looking at the many ways to fund your studies in South Africa can be overwhelming. There are so many options and guidelines to follow in order to determine if you qualify for certain options. Shirley breaks down some of the ways you can fund your studies in South Africa.

Looking for a means to fund your studies can be one of the most stressful aspects of university, but there are many options for students who are not financially able to simply pay for each course. Here are some options to consider:

1. Financial aid

Most of the bigger universities in South Africa offer financial aid to students who are unable to fund their studies and/or have achieved excellent academic results (even more reason to hit the books in matric!) Want to see if you qualify for financial aid? Click here.

Each university has their own criteria and rules when it comes to applying for financial aid and who qualifies.  So it’s important that you contact the university’s financial aid office to enquire about their financial aid requirements.

University financial aid details are listed here:

2. Bursaries & scholarships

If you’re not interested in taking out a loan and have a good academic record you should consider looking for a bursary or a scholarship. While many universities will know of bursaries that are available to students (so you should definitely ask about these), you can also benefit from looking for your own bursary or scholarship.

One of the great places to access a comprehensive list of bursaries available in South Africa is here where you can filter all bursaries to find the ones in your chosen field of study.

Read more about your funding options here.

3. Student loans

Student loans are another option for students who are looking to fund their studies – most bank institutions have financing options for students. It is important to consider what taking out a student loan from a bank means. It requires the student begin paying back the loan after they graduate. Student loans also have a huge interest mark-up and require the student start paying between 3-6 months after graduating. It is important to note that you will need a parent or guardian to sign surety and pay the interest until you graduate and can start paying back the loan.

Here are some institutions where you can apply for a loan:


The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is an option that often works in conjunction with your university of choice by providing funding for students who have little to no familial income. NSFAS is a government organization which aims to provide an efficient and sustainable financial aid system for poor yet academically eligible students. NSFAS enables these kinds of students to obtain loans and bursaries at 26 public higher education institutions and 50 technical and vocational education training colleges.

A student who receives a NSFAS loan is required to start paying back the loan at the beginning of the year after the student has become employed or becomes self-employed (irrespective of whether the student has completed his or her studies). The good news is that repayments only begin when the student’s annual salary is R26 300 or more and the repayment rate is reasonable: 3% of your annual salary when you begin working, increasing to a maximum of 8% when your salary reaches R59,300 or more per year.

This means you will pay back R900 a year on a salary of R30 000 a year, or R84 per month. Not a bad deal, especially when you consider that the interest charged on the loan is subsidised at 80% of the rate that the commercial rate banks would charge.

Contact NSFAS directly to enquire about a student loan or ask your university about their NSFAS funding.

5. Part-time work

If all else fails, you have the option of working and studying part-time. This is certainly a harder option.  It is one which requires a vast amount of dedication to complete your studies, while being focused and committed to your day job. If you are working full-time and studying part-time is not an option, consider getting a student job.  This can help take the pressure off your parents providing money for living expenses.

There are so many ways to fund your studies in South Africa, so don’t despair if one option doesn’t work for you. The best strategy is always to ask as many questions as you can. Talk to your university about funding, job opportunities, bursaries and scholarships.  They might know how to help you fund the most important decision of your life!

Also consider Unisa as an alternative method of studying. Many people work full-time, support themselves financially, pay for their tuition fees and pass their studies with above-average marks!

EduConnect 2cents

There are many possible ways to fund your studies. Ask the fees department at your chosen institution to give you advice on what options to consider if you are unsure which path to choose. Remember to look at what options work well for you and your family before rushing into a loan you might not be able to pay back.

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