While searching for financial aid, one of the many options which students will want to look into is free bursaries. Free bursaries are very commonly offered by national governments and individual colleges. They offer an incredibly useful opportunity to get access to financial aid and, in all hopes, decrease a student’s reliance on loans. Choosing a free bursary over a loan should give students an idea of benefits immediately, as in most cases bursaries don’t need to be repaid. There are some instances in which bursary arrangements are made with private companies which exchange time worked for financial aid given, and while these programs certainly have many fantastic benefits, they cannot fairly be described as free.
When considering what free bursaries are, students should look first to the local financial aid office at their local university and request an information packet. These packets contain the vast majority of free bursaries available to a student, listing award amounts and eligibility requirements. In Canada and the United Kingdom, acting on the material in an information packet will be as easy as submitting an application for financial aid which will automatically enroll a student in any program offered by the university. However in South Africa this process is not always as simple. While information packets are normally available at South African university financial aid departments, applying to these programs can be somewhat difficult. Further compounding this issue is that the most widely available student aid program, provided through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) starts out initially as a loan which has to be repaid but later, for certain students, can be converted into a free bursary program.
Considering free bursaries in South Africa is fairly important because it offers an example of a system which teeters between large amounts of privately offered programs and a smaller amount of publicly supported ones. NSFAS is in many ways a great example of the strange balance which occurs in this country when it comes to free bursaries. Initially, all students using the NSFAS to gain access to student loans will be required to pay back the awards slowly over time. In essence, this means that the government creates a situation in which debt can be accrued by students before they graduate. In many ways this runs contrary completely to free bursaries, but the South African government has incentivized the program allowing for some of the loan amounts to be converted into non-repayable bursaries. The ability to convert loans into free bursaries is based on a student’s academic progress meaning that those who do well in school and score high on examinations will be presented with the opportunity to convert some of their loans into free bursaries. With so many privately offered bursary schemes in the country available to only a sliver of the overall student population, students who get NSFAS loans should certainly work hard in school so that they will later be able to drop at least some of their debt through free bursary conversions.
Looking outside of South Africa towards Europe and Canada, free bursaries abound. In Canada bursaries are offered not only at the local college level by region but also through national programs like the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. In a similar way the United Kingdom offers an exceptional amount of free bursaries based on locale and university with national programs available but largely limited to specific fields or careers. Despite the difference in national level free bursary offerings, these two countries are great examples of places which offer an immense amount of programs that do not have to be repaid.
Many people graduating from secondary education institutions would like to attend college, and it should not be surprising that in countries where free bursary programs are readily offered college enrollment is relatively high. While student loans which must be repaid are still not uncommon in these areas, students with high access to free bursaries can enroll in college without having to worry about having debt equivalent to purchasing a new home upon graduation.