Your dream degree or diploma beckons, but money’s too tight to mention. Don’t despair – if you’re on the ball, it’s easy to score financial aid.
Editor | July 2014
The late Nelson Mandela was bang on the money when he said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The reality is that in today’s competitive job market, simply having a matric pass will not open many doors for you. That’s why studying further is strongly recommended – and the good news is that tertiary education need not be just for the moneyed elite.
After the initial jubilation of obtaining a matric certificate – and, even better, university exemption – wears off, would-be students need to come back down to earth and start thinking seriously about their future. In fact, they should have started mulling over their career options and where they’d like to study at least a year before sitting down to write those dreaded matric final exams.
But one shadow often looms large over newly matriculated teens with big dreams and small bank balances: how to fund their studies.
The bad news is that each year of undergraduate study at a subsidised public university can set students (and parents) back around R30 000, and even more if you’re swotting at a private college or want to go into a field such as medicine or engineering. And that’s before you even think about forking out for accommodation, transport, textbooks and socialising!
The good news is that financial help is available from a variety of sources. But there’s a catch: you have to be smart, sussed and on the ball to be the early bird that catches the funding worm.
So, instead of feeling sorry for yourself, thinking that empty pockets will put the brakes on your brilliant career, get out there and start applying for any and every bursary, scholarship and loan you can sniff out! The earlier you get your application in (you can even submit your Grade 11 results), the better the chance you’ll have of snagging a grant.
Depending on the type of financial aid you receive, you may be required to repay it – either directly or by working for your benefactor for a certain period once you’ve finished your degree. So you need to ask yourself upfront whether you have the staying power to pursue a particular study path right through to the end, because if you don’t, you’ll still be liable for those fees. And lets face it, there’s really nothing worse than being saddled with tuition debt for abandoned studies!
Vocational guidance counsellors may tell you one thing, but before you plunge right in, ask yourself whether your chosen path is ideally suited to your abilities and personality. In reality, will you be able to find a job at the end of it? What are the scarce skills that are in demand in the marketplace?
These days the internet is awash with institutions, government departments and companies that offer financial assistance to worthy students. So start enquiring as soon as possible, and be sure to follow up on all your applications.
Above all, don’t get despondent if you receive letters of rejection. Repeat this mantra: try, try and try again. Your persistence and optimism will inevitably pay off!
In 2013, South Africa’s matric pass rate was 78.2%. A total of 30.6% qualified to study at university. However, there has been much debate about the value and quality of a matric pass, and many tertiary institutions now require candidates to write an admission test before they’ll even consider you.
Remember: A matric pass with university exemption does NOT guarantee you a place at a university. Even though two new universities, in Nelspruit and Kimberley, opened their doors in 2014, South Africa still does not have enough places at its public universities to cater for the demand from matriculants eligible to study towards bachelor’s degrees. We have seen deadly stampedes in the past, with students desperate to register for any available course.
The National Treasury estimates that a mind-boggling 42% of economically active South Africans under the age of 30 are unemployed. That’s almost half the country’s youth population. On the flip side of the coin, economist Mike Schussler points out only 7% of degree graduates are unemployed. And – here’s an interesting fact that could influence your study path if you aren’t academically inclined – if you are an artisan with a trade, there’s only a 12% chance that you won’t find work. You do the maths: it’s in your best interests to pursue higher education.
BEAT THE BURSARY BLUES
What are the options?
The Private Sector
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)
Study While you Work