Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Reflections from Education Week 2012 – our interview with Michelle Branco

We caught up with Eduloan’s Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer, Michelle Branco, to give us her views on the recent African Education Week Expo 2012 and Eduloan’s One Day is Today campaign.

We’ve split the interview into 6 parts so you can view each one as an answer to the questions we asked. Scroll down to see the videos – they’re a must watch!

Q: What was your overall impression of Education Week and what did you take away from it?

Q: How accessible is new classroom technology going to be in reality and do you think it’s possible to address the digital divide?

Q: We believe you were presenting at the conference – what topic did you discuss?

Q: Do you believe that South Africa’s education woes are going to come to an end any time soon – e.g. do you believe that the poverty-stricken who live in rural areas will one day have better access to education?

Q: Eduloan has recently started a campaign called One Day is Today – can you explain a little bit more about the objectives behind it?


Q: Lastly, how does one know when it’s time for a career change? For instance, what made you decide to make the transition from the telecommunications industry into education?

Monday, 23 July 2012

Manage bursary funds wisely, advises Eduloan

As more and more students rely on financial assistance to fund their studies, the administration burden on universities, FETs (Further Education and Training) institutions and corporate sponsors has increased.

The result is that they often struggle to efficiently administer the bursaries awarded to their students. Lacking extra capacity, they find the most efficient way of reducing their burden is to dole out the full year’s value of a bursary, less tuition fees, to students up front.

It is estimated that the average cost of a three year degree is around R75 000 in South Africa – for tuition alone. The cost of rent, food and books can mean that the true cost is around R150 000 – a lot of money for most people. In order to benefit the maximum number of students, with the limited funds available, we need to consider how this money can best be managed – to everyone’s benefit.

Students with limited financial education, who have never had to compile a budget, are asked to manage sums which, to them, might seem almost limitless. The truth is that R50 000, if not managed wisely, can be spent in just a few months.

Without advice and management tools in place, many students run out of funds towards the middle of the year, placing enormous pressure on families to keep students in tertiary education. Concentrating on your studies is hard enough without wondering whether you have enough money to buy groceries for the month.

Eduloan’s Eduxtras card is an easy-to-use, secure solution in the form of a debit card which will assist both students and their sponsors to ensure that funds are spent for the purpose they were intended. As with any bank card, the Eduxtras solution offers online statements and easy swiping at merchants on and around campus. Bursars can stipulate online in a once-off transaction for each student how these funds can be disbursed, with sums allocated for rent, food and groceries, books, and tuition. There is also a cash facility, with funds transferred to the student’s bank account.
Universities have welcomed the Eduxtras card, saying it allows them to better serve their students while reducing their administration costs associated to managing funds allocated by bursars and The National Student Fund Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Roekus de Villiers, financial aid director at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), said his institution has benefited by introducing the Eduxtras card to students. Previously, TUT had employed eight people to manage a book voucher system which allowed students to buy their books from on-campus stores. Invoices were manually processed every month.

“There’s no doubt the solution we currently have works for us,” he said. Not only has the university increased the accuracy of its record-keeping, but it has also increased trust.

“One of the biggest benefits we’ve gained is that there is trust from the students’ side,” he said, explaining that students felt more comfortable with the process, while bursars were also satisfied that funds were being appropriately used.

Funds in each pocket can be used only with suppliers that are set up for each category. For example, the books allowance can only be spent at contracted bookshops, and not on food. This ensures that overspending in one category does not affect students’ other commitments. To assist in budgeting and money management, real-time statements are available throughout the month.

Once the allocation has been done, cards can be used at over 200 merchants around the country, with more added all the time. Over 80 accommodation merchants have signed up, as has Pick n Pay’s network of supermarkets in the vicinity of the campuses.

The Eduxtras card offers more than convenience. For bursars, universities and FET colleges tasked with bursary administration, it also represents a significant cost saving. In order to provide the same level of service available through the card, they would need extra staff to administer monthly payments and would themselves have to vet merchants. In the case of off-campus accommodation, one larger university would facilitate transactions in excess of R80-million, with multiple merchants, the administration involved is not insignificant.

Corporates, too, benefit from the product as they know the bursary funds will be spent wisely and their students will be able to complete their studies without financial worries.
With the cost of studying steadily increasing, deciding how much money to allow for living expenses can become a guessing game. Eduloan administers R550 million worth of bursary funds throughout the country, and can advise what typical costs are for each category and how much money should be allocated for each purpose.

For instance, tuition for undergraduate degrees costs up to R25 000 for government-funded institutions, but can be higher at private facilities. Rental depends on the area, but usually costs between R1 200 and R1 700 a month. Books are a substantial cost, at an average R8 000 a year. Students typically spend between R800 and R1 000 a month on groceries.

Money paid over by bursars or other sponsors is kept in a trust account and is not accessed directly by Eduloan, ensuring that the funds remain secure.

Efficient bursary fund management leads to better outcomes. At a time when we want students to concentrate on the new skills they are acquiring, it does not seem wise to burden them with financial worries. Some families end up going into further debt, through additional loans, when the initial loan or bursary amount is exhausted. Other students simply drop out.

There are no transactional costs associated with the card, and neither are bursars nor education institutions charged any fees, as the business model is based on agreements between Eduloan and merchants. But for many students and bursars, the convenience and peace of mind it provides are priceless.

“It’s important that the donor is happy that the funds are spent in the right way, and those kinds of controls were built into the card,” he says. “The solution definitely assisted us with the administration and reduced the cost of staffing.” De Villliers said.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Should access to education be an employee benefit? (Part 2)

To read part 1 of this article, click here

The value many clients have received in dealing with Eduloan is the ability to take out more than one student loan for themselves and, in many cases, their children, and even the children of their domestic workers. With Eduloan, it is all possible because of the lending rates. Additionally, the rates make it possible for people to repay their loans sooner, with repayment periods spanning between six and 24 months, unlike bank loans, which can take up to six years to pay off.

It is important that corporate South Africa really takes a look at its role in making education accessible to employees, and, like the government, come to regard it as an important employee benefit.

A partnership with Eduloan presents a win-win situation for all involved and will serve to prioritise education, with employees getting their monthly nett salaries with the loan repayment already deducted - leaving them to focus on other things.

We are encouraged and proud to report that there are those in the industry who have begun to see the light. In making education accessible for even the most financially stretched individuals are blue-chip firms such as: Eskom, British American Tobacco (BAT) Holdings, Gijima Holdings, McDonalds SA, KWV SA, and Golden Leopard Resorts. Several universities have also come on board, including Stellenbosch, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan, Rhodes, Zululand, Venda, Walter Sisulu, UNISA, and the Tshwane Institute of Technology - and municipalities too, but more still needs to be done.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Should access to education be an employee benefit?

Recent statistics coming from America on the factors contributing to the country's high levels of debt should serve as a wake-up call for South Africa, particularly the lengths to which their employees go in order to access education financing.

While no official and comprehensive statistics exist as yet for South Africa, it is common knowledge that South Africans are over-indebted.

According to the National Credit Regulator, more than 70 percent of the country's households are living from pay cheque to pay cheque. The implications of this are many. Of concern and interest to Eduloan is the impact that this is having on working South Africans' ability to further their education and that of their next of kin, due to an inability to afford student loans and, most commonly, failure to qualify for a loan due to their credit record.

Recognising the importance of education, the government has ensured that its departments recognise access to education as an essential employee benefit. Since Eduloan's inception in 1996, civil servants studying via this education financier have automatically qualified for loans without being subjected to credit checks and other forms of scrutiny.

Repayments deducted from salaries
To ensure that they do not default on their loan repayments,Eduloan has an arrangement with civil servants and their employer for the loan repayments to be deducted from salaries, as is done for other employee benefits, like pension funds, medical aids, and life insurance.

To date, Eduloan has disbursed over R3 billion in student loans to more than 620 000 beneficiaries.
But most importantly, this arrangement has changed how civil servants view access to education. For government departments, benefits include a better-skilled labour force and better relationships with employees, who appreciate the array of benefits afforded to them. The arrangement also re-emphasises the notion that the government is truly committed to enabling access to education for its employees and their families.

By including access to education as an employee benefit, corporate South Africa can also get to enjoy the same advantages - and this is what Eduloan is driving.

With the growing focus on good governance globally, there's a greater expectation for companies to be good corporate citizens - and employees are aware of this.

Change has started
A study released in the US a few years ago warned that although potential employees have had to motivate why an organisation should hire them, this was going to change - and it has started.
The global race for skilled personnel, a limited pool, is driving the trend. Increasingly, companies are having to motivate to potential employees why they should join their organisations. High on the list of what they seek, other than financial remuneration, is access to opportunities and development. Corporates cannot claim to offer this if they do not recognise or treat access to education as an important employee benefit.

While that trend has yet to gain traction in South Africa, it is only a matter of time until companies once again have to compete on the benefits they offer their most valuable asset - their employees. 

This is in addition to medical aid, pension funds, or the array of in-house employee-development programmes many now have. On the latter, the reality is that in-house programmes are not accessible to every employee, nor are company-paid education and bursaries. It is this gap that Eduloan has a track record of filling and it believes its offering can work for corporate South Africa.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Today is one day - could you win a bursary?

How many times have you had to put your dreams on hold because of obstacles in your way? Have you sacrificed the “you” that you could have been because you had to make someone or something else a priority?

Eduloan is running a campaign called “One Day Is Today”. The objective of this campaign is to inspire every South African to never give up on their dreams for their future. It recognises the courage and spirit of South Africans to make the most of themselves despite the odds being against them.

Take a look at the video and tell us what you think of our manifesto:

We are also giving away a bursary worth R15 000* and an iPad2 on our Facebook page One Day Is Today competition, so if you would like the chance to follow your dreams, enter here. Competition closes on 2nd August.

If you know a friend who is in need of a helping hand to further their studies share this post and do something today to make South Africa a greater place through education!

*Terms and conditions apply.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Give a little love to the teachers – your feedback

This month Eduloan is giving recognition to everyone in the teaching profession – to encourage South Africans to take a moment to think about the teachers who helped us to understand the world around us and succeed in it.

We asked our fans on Facebook to tell us about their favourite teachers and what made them special, and we got some lovely stories! Here are some of them below:

The good English she taught me, the morals and intellectual education I got from her.

Mr. Jonas, he taught us very well. He was teaching us Biology & he did a great job adding jokes as well. You make me miss biology classes! lol

Mr Tshola. Teaching to understand. If you didn't understand, he would explain to you.

My Grade 1 teacher, I am where I am because of her. R.I.P. Ma'am Nkuku.
If you have your own favourite teacher story to add, you can add them in the comments below!

Reflections from Education Week 2012 – our interview with Antoinette Norman

The GM National Sales for Eduloan, Antoinette Norman, recently attended the African Education Week Expo 2012 at the Sandton Convention Centre. We asked her about her insights into the development of education in South Africa and her overall impression of the conference.

Highlights from the interview:

Q: What was your overall impression of Education Week and what did you take away from it?

AN: It was my first impression, it was the first time I attended the event. I was ecstatic to see students as well as business partners in the education sector come together on one platform and collaborate with each other. I managed to integrate with a lot of the stakeholders that I deal with and it’s allowed me to form a thorough understanding of how the various stakeholders work together with one vision and that is to make South Africa a better country for education.

Q: Are there any big policy changes on the horizon for tertiary education and what will they mean for the student or corporate client?

AN: Government has mandated a huge portion of the national budget towards education. With this mindset, education will become easily accessible, and affordable, to all people wanting to study further. I noticed that more bursars are coming on board, in order to fund education, and that is from all aspects of tertiary levels, including your FETs and universities, and that is where we come into play and we are an arm to financing students and making that a reality.

Q: How is Eduloan enabling greater access to education?

AN: Eduloan is at the forefront of servicing the reality of education. We’re not just a finance provider; we’re unlocking potential in each South African in order to expand their knowledge and skills in all aspects of their lives – and that will affect the country as a whole. We come into play at the very forefront of the person wanting to study further and wanting to push themselves to greater heights.

Watch the clip below for the full interview:

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Give a little love to the teachers

Most teachers are in the profession because they have a passion for nurturing the minds of the younger generation. How often do we take a moment to think about the teachers who helped us to understand the world around us and succeed in it?

We all have a favourite teacher – a warm, kind lady who made you feel special when she smiled at you or perhaps a scholarly gentleman who helped you to see the world a little differently.

Tell us your stories about your favourite teacher, either from your primary school, high school or higher education days, and tell us why they are so special.We will be featuring the best of those stories on the blog at the end of this week.

If you would like to share your favourite teacher with us, please post your story in the comments section below or visit our Facebook page and post your story on our wall.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Education Week - Day 1

African Education Week 2012 has begun and the Eduloan team is here at the Sandton Convention Centre. If you would like to come and visit us at our stand you can register for a free ticket and come over to Stand 353 – take a look at the floor plan here.

Eduloan's Chief Commercial and Marketing Officer, Michelle Branco, will be speaking on 4th July 2012 at 09h00, and she will be giving us an exclusive interview on her insights from the Education Week conference shortly thereafter.

Don’t forget to follow Eduloan on Twitter @EduloanSA for more information on #eduweeksa!


Hello and welcome to the new Eduloan blog!

As experts in education finance, we always make sure that we keep our finger on the pulse of education in South Africa. With our passionate and dedicated team Eduloan is committed to helping all South Africans to truly unlock their potential.

We’ll be discussing topics that are informative and relevant to everyone who has an interest in furthering themselves academically and believes, like we do, that entire communities can be empowered and uplifted by education. And we think that these things should interest all South Africans!

We’ll be sharing all sorts of informative content, such as video interviews, insights into how access to tertiary education affects communities, the job market and South Africa as a whole, and we’ll be keeping you up to date with news from the exhibitions, conferences and events that we are attending!

Make sure you keep in touch with us on social media too:

Wherever you decide to engage with us we welcome your feedback, opinions and suggestions!