An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

Are student loans a good thing? If going into debt could be described as “a good thing”, then that label would apply to Student Loans.

The benefits of higher education far outweigh the problems of having to repay borrowed funds.

Parents need to take responsibility for their child’s education and:

  • Weigh up the benefits of debt versus education
  • Research Student Loan options
  • Find out if your child qualifies for a National Student loan
  • Explore the option of a bank-funded student loan


However, parents are urged to finance their children’s education from their own earnings.

If they are unable to do so, with no bursary or scholarship offered, then applying for a Student Loan is the next best option.

Are student Loans a good Thing and Who finances Them?

Remember, education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. Students who want to further their education but have no funds do have options –

  • These are the government-supported National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) or
  • Any of the country’s four big banks – Standard, Absa, Nedbank and First National Bank.

What is the Difference between These loans?

  • Students obtaining a NSFAS loan are held solely liable for the debt repayment.
  • The parents or guardians of students obtaining loans from one of the banks are responsible for debt repayment.

Let’s look At these two Options –


The government-backed NSFAS focuses its lending programme on students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds. Student Loans are available for the country’s 25 universities and technical vocational education training (TVET) colleges.

The NSFAS will fund:

  • Tuition
  • Accommodation on the campus or private quarters
  • Textbooks
  • Food
  • Travelling costs

How to Apply for a NSFAS loan

Applications for loans must be made by students via the university or college they will be attending. The NSFAS has given money to each of these educational institutions, basing the funding on the cost of student fees and the enrolment number of black, coloured and Indian students.

Working according to NSFAS rules, the universities and colleges make their own assessments as to which students will receive the funding.

What are the qualification criteria?

  • Students eligible for loans must come from a household earning under R122 000 annually
  • A sliding scale is used to determine the loan amount
  • Students from disadvantaged backgrounds receive maximum funding
  • Disadvantaged students studying for a university degree can receive up to R71 800 annually

NSFAS bonus

The NSFAS offers students a substantial bonus if they pass all their subjects every year. Those students can convert up to 40% of the loan amount into a bursary that does not have to be repaid!

Are student loans a good thing

How are Loans repaid?

Students are responsible for repaying the loans on completion of their studies and finding employment that pays at least R30 000 a year. Repayment is three percent of annual gross income but increases to a maximum of eight percent once salaries rise to R59 300 or more a year.

In today’s economy, it is highly unlikely that a student with a tertiary education would enter the employment pool earning R30 000 gross annual income. They are far more likely to earn at least R60 000 gross annual income. At a loan repayment of eight percent, this income will attract an annual interest of R4 800, requiring a very affordable monthly loan repayment of R400.

What if I drop Out or can’t Find work?

The NSFAS does not expect payment from qualified students who have not found employment. They must begin paying as soon as they find employment. However, students who drop out of university or college are expected to pay the cost of their studies up until the time of their departure from the campus.

Are student Loans a good Thing and How does a Bank loan work?

South African banks that service Students Loans are Standard, Absa, Nedbank and First National Bank. Parents or guardians are held responsible for the repayment of the loan. The capital loan amount must be repaid on completion of the studies, but banks charge interest and administration costs which must be paid monthly.

Example of repayments

  • A loan amount of R80 000 is granted to a student for a four-year university degree
  • The loan attracts an interest rate of 10%
  • Monthly administration fees are R50
  • Annual interest is R8 000
  • Annual admin fees are R600
  • Monthly repayment (excluding capital) amounts to R716.67

Are student loans a good thing – here Comes the Small print!

The loan amount now doubles to R160 000 because, remember, the capital amount for the first year has not been paid. The guarantor for the loan – the parent or guardian – has only paid off interest and administration costs. So by the time the student completes the degree, the capital amount will have soared to R320 000.

This amount attracts its own interest and administration fees, leaving the guarantor with a final bill closer to the R400 000 mark. That amount is over and above the money paid in the interim years by the guarantor to offset the bank’s monthly interest and administration costs.

What you get –

  • Tuition fees
  • Accommodation costs
  • Textbooks
  • Study-related equipment such as laptops

Students must reapply for a loan every year on registration at the institution. The banks pay the money for the cost of textbooks and study equipment directly into a student’s bank account. Absa, however, pays all the money to the student’s sponsor.

Are student loans a good thing – Conclusion

There is no thing as a “good debt”, but when it comes to education most parents will bend over backwards to help their children secure a good financial future. However, it is obvious that attempting to obtain funding for tertiary education with a bursary is the best solution.

To apply for a loan just fill in the form on this page. Then click to submit it!

All info was correct at time of publishing