In my years as a university student, I had to explore different ways to fund my studies. In this blog, I’ll share the types of financial assistance you can look into as a student.

There are 6 different types of funding options for a student that I’ll highlight:

  1. National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)
  2. External Bursaries
  3. Study Loans
  4. Savings
  5. Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP)
  6. Scholarships

1. National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

NSFAS is a form of student funding that caters to students who want to register at public universities or Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. Online applications can be done on the NSFAS website, and manual applications can be sent via fax, post or email.

To apply on the NSFAS website, you first need to create a personal online account, and then fill out and submit the application form online. You’ll need about 30 minutes to complete the online process, and must also have scanned copies of the following required attachments:

  • Matric Certificate
  • Identity Document/Birth Certificate
  • Last Academic Results
  • Proof of parents income (if parent/s are employed)
  • Death Certificate/s (if parent/s are deceased)
  • Doctor’s Certificate (if permanently disabled)

💡Good to know: NSFAS Online Applications for the 2024 academic year are open from September 28th 2023 to January 31st 2024.

To apply for funding from the NSFAS, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Must have email and cell phone number
  • Be a South African citizen with a valid ID number
  • Be a first-time student at a university or TVET college
  • Your household income can’t be over R350,000 per year (if you’re living with disabilities, your household income shouldn’t be above R600,000 per year) although SASSA recipients automatically qualify on financial eligibility
  • You must meet the academic requirements for admission to a university or TVET college

What Does The NSFAS Bursary Cover?

The NSFAS Funding bursary for 2024-2025 covers the cost of tuition and some additional expenses related to your studies, including:

  • Accommodation. NSFAS covers the cost of on-campus or off-campus student housing.
  • Textbooks and study materials. NSFAS can provide you with a study allowance to buy the textbooks and materials you need for your course.
  • Meals. NSFAS provides a meal allowance to help cover the cost of food while you’re studying.
  • Travel expenses. NSFAS provides a travel allowance to help cover the cost of travel to and from campus.

2. Study Bursaries

A bursary is a form of financial assistance given to a student for further studies by a sponsor organisation. Bursaries in South Africa may differ in terms of the amount given, and how many years of study it covers you for.

BMW, for example, offers bursaries to those who want to study computer science, IT, technology and business management, while the department of finance offers bursaries for those wanting to study economics, banking, auditing and taxation.

Bursaries are awarded to students who meet the criteria set by the sponsor organisation. It’s important to note, however, that academic performance or merit is a big deciding factor to be awarded any bursary. Some of the other bursary requirements can include:

  • A minimum overall average e.g. 60%.
  • Vacation work within a division at the sponsor organisation to ensure that the recipient gets the relevant industry experience prior to graduation.

There may also be a work-back clause in the bursary contract that means you need to work for the sponsor organisation after graduating. The contract is usually on a year-for-year basis, which means that if the bursary is awarded for 3 years of study, then the work-back period will be for the same period, i.e. 3 years. Depending on the contract, sponsored students (i.e. bursars) who don’t graduate and can’t work back their bursary can be liable to repay the funds spent on them.

There’s no limit to the number of bursaries you can apply for, so it’s a good idea to apply for as many bursaries as possible that match your interests and needs to improve your chances of getting one. For a list of bursaries, go to, or

3. Study Loans

A study loan is funding for students who can’t fund their studies themselves. To apply for a loan, you need proof of your financial background at home.

You’ll need these documents to apply for a student loan:

  • Proof of income of parent or guardian (i.e. payslip) or lack thereof (affidavit from the police station);
  • ID documents of parents/guardian;
  • Proof of address or lack thereof (affidavit from the police station);

The most popular student loans are the following:

  • Fundi: Available at most Higher Education Institutions. Their loans are able to cover your full studies or partial parts of your studies.
  • All major South African Banks have various student loan packages, but the repayment rates you get depend on your credit profile.

4. Investing For Your Studies

Thinking ahead and investing for your studies (or as a parent, investing in your child’s studies) means you don’t have debt you need to pay back. Whether you're preparing for higher education, vocational training, or specialised courses, setting aside money for your education is a wise investment in your future (and financial freedom).

Here are a few reasons why it's a good idea to invest towards your studies:

  1. Greater peace of mind: University will likely be the most expensive cost associated with your children (or, if you're saving for your own education, the start of your career). Wouldn't it be nice to have some money available for those expenses when they're due?
  2. Your money will grow: Any interest or capital gains you receive on your contributions will be compounded, which means you'll earn growth on top of growth.
  3. You're accounting for inflation: University fees will increase with inflation, so investing your money to grow with (or even exceed) inflation is a good idea.

You can establish a dedicated education investment plan on the Franc app by setting up an Education goal. This can help cover the costs of tuition fees, textbooks, and living expenses. Start by creating a budget that outlines your income, expenses, and savings goals. Saving for your studies not only provides you with the means to access quality education, but also helps you build up your financial responsibility muscle and prepares you for a brighter, more secure future.

5. Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP)

The Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP) is a beacon of hope for countless South African students pursuing higher education. At its core, ISFAP exists to address the pressing issue of financial barriers that often prevent talented individuals from accessing tertiary education in South Africa.

The ISFAP aims to reduce the high dropout rate among disadvantaged students, enhance the employability of its funded graduates, improve the country's skills profile – especially in high-demand occupations – and foster partnerships between government, the private sector and business community, and higher education institutions to support economically disadvantaged students and those in the "missing middle" category.

Who qualifies for an ISFAP bursary?

  • Applicants from families whose annual income is between R0 - R600,000 per year
  • Acceptance into an ISFAP partner university and programme
  • Applicants must be South African citizens

How does the ISFAP application process work?

The application process for financial funding from ISFAP entails the following:

  • Take the online ISFAP application
  • Select one of the ISFFAP-partnered universities of choice and the ISFAP-funded degree or programme you would like to take
  • Submit application with the following documents:
  • Certified ID document of applicant
  • Certified ID document of parent/s, guardian/s or household contributor/s
  • Certified copy of latest academic transcript (Grade 11 or Matric)Signed ISFAP consent form, certified by Commissioner of Oaths

Note that applications for the academic year 2024 will be closing at the end of October 2023.

6. Merit Scholarships

A scholarship is an academic financial sponsorship awarded to a deserving student. Scholarships cover at least a portion of a student's tuition. In the case where the scholarship does not fully cover the fees, the student or their parents have to make up the rest.

The good thing about a scholarship is that the student doesn’t have to pay any of the money back. Scholarships differ from bursaries in that there is usually no contractual obligations between the student and the sponsor organisation. Having said that, in most scholarships the student has to maintain a certain average in terms of their marks and stick to conditions set by the sponsor.

Requirements for scholarship also may include:

  • A minimum overall grade point average e.g. 60%.
  • Community engagement or involvement during the academic year

Saving or funding for higher education requires a significant amount of time. The frustrations of trying to secure funding for your studies can really take a toll on you, but rest assured that there are options that come with their own set of requirements, deadlines, and eligibility criteria. So, start early and stay organised!