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The bulk of South African universities are starting the 2017 academic year off on a sour financial footing, with more than R2-billion in outstanding fees owed to them.

For Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the accumulated debt stands at R122.5-million, with R99.3-million of that accrued in 2016 alone. A further breakdown is included hereunder.

As a result of the outstanding debt, which is coupled with pressures to concede to students registering with outstanding debt, there are added constraints to universities’ cash flow, in particular at the start of the year.

For NMMU, the 2017 operational budget is at a deficit of R68-million, making it necessary to use the University’s investment income to break even.

It would therefore be of great financial detriment to the University to make blanket concessions to exempt all students from paying the initial down payments and register with outstanding debt.

There is ongoing engagement on arising student finance matters through the Financial Aid Task Team, which is chaired by DVC: Institutional Support Dr Sibongile Muthwa. The task team comprises various stakeholders, including members of an interim student representative body, staff and management. The task team’s mandate is to roll out any financial aid concessions that Council and/or Manco resolve on that fall outside the standard annual financial aid or bursary allocations.


First-time entering students:

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has committed to doing all that it can to finalise the allocation of financial aid packages to first time entering students.  The university is working closely with NSFAS to assist in this process and expect this process to be finalised by the end of the week.

Returning students:

Returning students who are still awaiting NSFAS to confirm funding for 2017, but meet the following four conditions will be allowed to register for 2017:

  1. They received NSFAS financial aid in 2016
  2. They satisfied the module pass requirements for the 2016 academic year
  3. They satisfy the NSFAS completion requirement for the programme
  4. They have signed their 2016 NSFAS loan agreement form


NMMU 2016 - Zero expected family contribution (EFC)

The University council resolved that only the 2016 cohort of qualifying Zero EFC students, who continue to be academically deserving, will be allowed to register with outstanding debt and be exempt from paying the down payments.

NMMU 2016 defined “Missing middle”

Council, however, did not concede to a similar request for students from the NMMU-defined missing middle cohort of 2016 (families who earn no more than R300 000) to be allowed to register while having outstanding debt and without paying the down payment.

The University would, however, consider entering into personal one-on-one agreements with students from this cohort in terms of making appropriate arrangements for outstanding financial commitments based on personal circumstances and academic merit.

The Financial Aid Task Team also asked that any returning students who may have fallen into the 2016 NMMU Missing Middle ceiling gap be identified and put on a “waiting list” should support be made available.    


As at 24 January 2017, the total outstanding student debt at NMMU stood at R122.5-million, of which R99.3-million was accrued in 2016 alone.

Of this amount, Zero EFC students who were not funded by NSFAS in 2016 account for R34.1-million, while R7-million is debt owed by the 2016 cohort of University-defined missing middle students.  The balance being owed by students not falling within the NMMU-defined missing middle.


Students falling within the government-defined missing middle – those whose annual household income is not more than R600 000 – are eligible for an adjustment grant that effectively covers the 8% fee increase announced by the University last year. This grant covers only the difference between the 2016 and current fees, and not the full amount. In other words, these students do not have to pay the 8% increase themselves as it will be subsidised by government.

Those whose combined family income is below R600 000 must apply to receive the grant by following the link:

Students are encouraged to apply for this grant as soon as possible as the verification process includes the verification of supporting documents by an independent national to ensure applicants are in fact compliant.


With the exception of those who qualify for the University concessions as explained, NMMU therefore calls on all students with outstanding debt to settle it prior to registration.

Communication & Stakeholder Liaison

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777