Student loan options in South Africa 

Choosing to complete a tertiary education is one of the most secure ways to ensure a bright and rewarding future for yourself and your family.

It offers you a way to obtain the necessary qualifications to pursue a high level career that offers you a good stable income but, it also provides you with the knowledge, skills and competencies that you need to get the job and succeed at it in the long term.

Although we will examine many aspects of researching, selecting, applying and getting a student loan in South Africa we will also briefly outline other ways in which you can fund your studies and this includes some of the many bursary programs available to deserving and/or previously disadvantaged students.

An outline of bursaries and scholarships in South Africa

One of the best ways to fund your tertiary education is through a government or private bursary or a scholarship. Bursaries differ from student loans because they do not always have to be repaid in full and are usually given to students from a previously disadvantaged background or those who are pursuing a specific career path.

Scholarships are similar to bursaries since they also do not have to be repaid by the student but are awarded based on outstanding academic achievements or personal merit. There are certainly more bursaries available than scholarships but, the competition is fierce for both forms of funding and you must be committed to the process and to obtaining the funds from the onset.

One of the things that is important to note is that most bursary and scholarships programs require you to be approved for study at a particular university in order to apply. This means that you should and must apply for admission to your desired field of study before applying for a particular bursary or scholarship.

It's also advisable that you apply for multiple scholarships and bursaries to increase your chance of approval. If you are approved for more than one program you can then choose one based on which offer you the highest amount - for instance one might offer you 60% of tuition, accommodation and travel expenses verses another offering you a 100% bursary or scholarship.

Many bursaries are offered by government departments and large corporate organizations who wish to offer bursaries for fields of studies such as actuarial science, mathematics, accounting, engineering and computer science.

These professions are regarded as important since there is a massive shortage of professionals in the country and very few graduates who make it through their tertiary programs. You can also find many bursaries for those who wish to become educators and the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme is one such program.

Another good example is the HCI Foundation which has a tertiary bursary programmes that offers 1000 students funds towards their education a year. There are many websites dedicated to providing you with a complete list of available scholarships and bursaries in South Africa and these are an excellent guide to help you get started and find a bursary for your desired career path.

Self funded & employer funded studies

Another option to fund a tertiary education is to fund costs on your own or with the help of a family member. To fund the costs on your own you may have to take a gap year to work and save money or take up a part time job while studying via open distance learning programmes such as those offered by UNISA.

Finally there are many people who are lucky enough to have an employer fund their studies. This is usually done for deserving employees who show great potential and are likely to grow into leadership or management positions. For those who do not have an employer or family member to fund your studies and those who do not wish to study part time or take time off to save for the costs of university you can then consider a student loan.

Understanding student loans in South Africa

A student loan is essentially a personal loan awarded for the purpose of funding university study. Since a student fresh out of high school will likely be unable to qualify for a loan given that they have no income and no credit history a parent or family member will have to act as a guarantor.

It is for this reason that a student loan has to be guaranteed by a parent or family member with a credit history and a stable income. Typically the guarantor will have to make the interest payments on the loan until the student has gradated and has secured employment when he or she will then begin making the repayments on the principal loan amount.

Where to get a student loan in South Africa

University education is very expensive and taking out a student loan must be considered carefully with the all the pros and cons weighed up. If you have no other option than to take out a student loan to fund your studies than it is a viable option that should be taken since your future and future earnings will be greatly improved by a university qualification and the skills, abilities and knowledge that come with it.

Student loans in South Africa are offered by banks and alternative student loan providers such as Eduloan. These lenders will offer you (with a guarantor) a loan to cover tuition fees and in some cases accommodation and extra fees for books and other materials with interest which is, as mentioned repaid by the parent or guarantor on a monthly basis.

What you will need to apply for a student loan

One of the most important things you'll need to apply for a loan is proof of acceptance at a university or tertiary education. You will then also have to provide your ID document as well as that of your parent or guarantor, the guarantors proof of income in the form of recent payslips and/or bank statements and proof of address in the form of a municipal bill.

You will then need to make the application for the loan either online or by visiting a lenders branch or offices. Some lenders that offer student loans include Nedbank, FNB, ABSA, Standard Bank and Eduloan. Eduloan offers loans that carry fixed monthly interest and has no loan maximum so you can apply to cover tuition fees, study materials and accommodation.