Ways to pay for your tertiary studies

Few South African families can afford university fees without financial assistance. We look at the costs and some of the routes you could follow to cover them.

Financial assistance for students

“I was stressing. I mean, how do you say no to your child’s dreams?” Johannesburg resident Chumani Mphalala recalls. It was 2015 and his daughter, Olona Bodlo, who had always been a dedicated and hard-working student, had just been accepted at university. She wanted to attend the University of Johannesburg to pursue a degree in public relations more than anything but money was tight. 

“I applied for loans, but I was worried about high interest rates. I didn’t want to take credit that would set me back financially,” explains Mphalala. He feared that monthly repayments based on high interest would compromise the family financially in the long-term.

Unfortunately, Mphalala’s story is one of many in South Africa. Despite government’s intervention in trying to keep university fees low, the combined costs of tertiary education remain overwhelming.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. Capitec approved Mphalala’s loan application instantly, thanks to his good credit record. “I was offered a low interest rate of 14.3%.” says Mphalala. “It meant I could help Olona realise her dreams.”  As a result of the low interest loan, Olona is currently set to complete her 3rd year and graduate at the end of 2018. You can watch her full story here.

Tuition costs, accommodation, textbooks, meals, transport and pocket money all add up quickly. Below is a breakdown of estimated tertiary education costs per year. (Costs vary depending on where and what you choose to study.)

A good education is a great investment. Whether for a friend, family member or yourself, here are different ways to pay for tertiary education: 


Distance/online studies 

If money is tight and you need to cut costs, it is worth looking at distance learning options or short online courses. You can then improve your skills and qualifications in a way that’s affordable to you and your family. If you are a distance learner, you can also apply for a paid internship with a respectable company in your chosen field of study. The University of South Africa (Unisa) is one of Africa’s most successful and respected distance learning institutions.


Part-time job 

Having a part-time job can relieve some of your financial stress. Check campus noticeboards and websites like Careers24 for ways to make money. Universities also offer work opportunities such as tutoring or admin assistants. Waitering has traditionally been a favoured choice for students. It allows for flexible shifts so that one’s studies are not compromised. 


Government aid  

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) provides financial assistance to students with academic potential who don’t have other bursary options. While some of your loan must be paid back, a large portion will be converted into a bursary if you maintain good academic results.


University bursaries 

Most universities offer high academic performers or sporting and cultural achievers bursaries that help cover the costs of study. Contact any university’s financial aid officer – they will be able to give you a list of the financial aid available and answer any questions that you might have.


Bank loans 

If you are employed on a full time basis, credit can be a powerful tool to realise your dreams by furthering your studies. Get up to R250 000 over 1 – 84 months. The money is available immediately. Learn more.

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