The academic alternatives

By Rodain Joubert

Still scared of banks? No fear!
Rhodes has its own alternatives for students requiring financial assistance including scholarships, bursaries and loans. Activate contacted several members of the
Rhodes administration to learn more.

 

For undergraduates, financial aid administrator Peta Bezuidenhout suggests the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) loan. This government-funded initiative is designed to help financially disadvantaged students get through their tertiary education, allowing the initial loan to be repaid once the student is employed. Taking out a NSFAS loan has considerable advantages over a regular bank loan, such as a much lower interest rate (only 5% in 2005).  There’s also a 40% bursary conversion if students pass their subjects. “That’s almost half of the loan paid back already,” Bezuidenhout explains. “It usually negates your interest incurred as well.”

 

NSFAS is, however, restricted in the way that it can only extend assistance to a limited number of applicants, meaning that financially needy and academically deserving students are usually the ones who are given the loan. Since this is a government organisation, NSFAS does not accept applications from foreign students, and is not available to postgraduates either. Students doing an LLB or PGCE, however, may still be covered by the loan.

 

John Gillam, who’s responsible for postgraduate financial aid at
Rhodes, indicates that there are a variety of more flexible loans and funding sources available for postgraduates. One is the Mellon programme, available to all students including foreigners. Other grants are available from the NRF and still more scholarships and bursaries are available from the individual departments at
Rhodes.

 

Not only are postgraduate options much more varied, but it’s generally easier to receive financial bonuses, regardless of your field. “That fact that you make it to postgraduate level often means that you’ve already proven yourself academically,” Gillam says. This is promising news for those who consider advancing their education beyond the regular course.

 

Postgraduate funding is significantly more complex than a single NSFAS loan, however, and people nearing the end of their third or fourth years are encouraged to seek direct assistance from the department.

 

In addition to the above options, both postgraduate and undergraduate students can also benefit from merit scholarships and bursaries based on their academic achievements. For those who achieve particularly good results (usually above 75%), tuition fees can often be reduced and even those who get slightly less are urged to ask about bursaries and financial options.

 

“This year, the
Rhodes financial department would like to stress the fact that they have an open-door policy towards students,” Gillam says. There are always people available to advise uncertain students on their financial options, and Gillam believes that an early approach is always best.

 

There are a variety of ways in which students can find more information regarding finances at
Rhodes. A quick visit to the Student Bureau at Eden Grove or the postgrad financial aid office at the main admin building should point you in the right direction, and for online assistance students can visit
www.ru.ac.za/finaid for undergraduate students or www.ru.ac.za/pgfunding for postgrads.

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