The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is set to open for one more final round of applications for financial assistance, this after it was flooded by thousands of applications which swamped its website recently.

The centralised application period for students in need of financial assistance in 2017 closed on November 30, having opened at the beginning of August.

But on Thursday, just 15 days after the cut-off date, the NSFAS said there would be another window for applications in January.

NSFAS chief executive officer, Msulwa Daca, said the second and last application window of application for financial aid for those who failed to apply would be January 9-14 for those wishing to study at TVET colleges, and January 9-20 for those wishing to attend university.

According to Daca, on November 28, just two days before the closing date of applications for student funding, NSFAS recorded over 48,500 unique users, almost doubling the previous record.

“In the last 30 days, we had over 7.9 million page views and 435,096 unique users on our website,” Daca said.

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Daca explained that the online applications portal had experienced an overload of users, ranging between 4,000 and 5,000 at any one time. This then resulted in slow response times and intermittent timeouts. “We have also experienced an extremely high flow of incoming applications via email, in the order of ten thousands, nonetheless our system has never crashed.”

Daca said NSFAS had a total budget of R14 billion for the 2017 academic year for both universities and Technicons and he encouraged all young people who missed the first application phase this year, to take advantage of the second opportunity and submit their applications as soon as possible.

Daca said that due to the huge demand following they closure of the first application period, NSFAS executive management had engaged with stakeholders like the department of higher education and training (DHET), department of basic education (DBE), department of social development (DSD) and student leaders to see what could be done to ensure those pupils received another opportunity.

Daca thanked the DSD and the DBE for assisting in providing databases of all pupils who sat for NSC exams this year and those who were on the social grant database. “This will assist us to improve how we rank and evaluate the students who should be prioritised for financial aid,” said Daca.

“As communicated by the government earlier this week, matriculants who are currently receiving a social grant and are accepted in institutions of higher learning, will no longer go through a means test to qualify for financial aid from NSFAS,” said Daca.