NSFAS was established according to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Act (Act 56 of 1999) and incorporated TEFSA (Tertiary Education Fund of South Africa). From 1993 to 2000, TEFSA was the primary non-profit company in terms of Section 21 of the Companies Act and ceased to operate in July 2000. All existing loans on the TEFSA books were transferred to NSFAS.
The NSFAS Act enables any student to apply for a bursary from NSFAS but allows the board to impose conditions, generally, or in respect of a particular loan or bursary. Such conditions include the use of the means test and the loan conversion of up to 40 per cent of any loan as an incentive for academic success.
It provides for payment by NSFAS of the amount of the loan or bursary “to the designated higher education institution”, rather than to the applicant. It also allows NSFAS to enter into what is in effect an agency agreement with higher education institutions (HEIs) or further education and training (FET) colleges.