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How to pay for your studies as a “later in life” student

You’ve made the big decision to go back to university. You’re keen to broaden your mind and are excited about the opportunity to learn more, do more, achieve more and earn more!

Studying later in life can be difficult for many reasons. But finding the funding shouldn’t be a reason for you to give up on your dreams.

Here are some of the ways you can fund your studies.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

NSFAS is the South African government loan and bursary scheme and is set to distribute about R9 billion this year. It provides opportunities for students who are academically able but in need of financial support. If students do well they are able to convert part of their loan into a bursary that will not need to be repaid. The amount of money given to each student varies.

University aid

The university of your choice should have a financial aid office where you are able to find information about available aid options. Scores of students are assisted each year through the financial aid provided by universities. The University of Cape Town provides bursary funding and says: “Financial aid is comprehensive funding based on approved costs of study. The most financially needy students could pay as little as R1 050 towards their cost of study each year.”


Private companies and government offer bursaries to students who demonstrate academic excellence. There are conditions to bursaries that outline how much money you’ll be given and the amount of time over which you will receive funding (whether it’s a year-long bursary or a bursary for the duration of the degree). You will often be required to work at the company that provided the bursary for a certain period of time after graduation. There are numerous resources for finding available bursaries.


If you’re currently working, but still need the extra cash to study, you could apply for a loan. There are a number of ways to secure loans in South Africa, like applying for a personal loan through DirectAxis. You will be able to choose how much money to borrow and the repayment term that best suits you. And if the loan has been approved, the money will be paid to you in next to no time. Even better, the repayments are fixed, so there won’t be any unexpected increases.

Working while studying

Paying for your own studies while working part-time or even full-time is a reality many people face. It can be tricky to balance work requirements with the needs of your studies, but the hard work will pay off in the long run. Of course, if you have a family, it may be a lot more difficult to balance working, studying and taking care of your family.

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