Can you get a student loan for online study?

Not too long ago, the idea of taking an online course to obtain a tertiary qualification would have raised eyebrows. Why lock yourself up away from your classmates when you can attend classes and enjoy your student social life? A conversation like this is very different today. More than a year into the disruption of Covid-19, working remotely and studying online have become safe and popular options.

Studying online isn’t for everyone – it not only requires the right equipment and a stable internet connection to attend classes, but also commitment and discipline to get through the course work. You would think that the big difference between online and physical classes is the tuition costs. But the biggest savings seem to lie more in student accommodation and travel costs, rather than course fees.

Can you get a student loan if you study online?

The short answer is ‘Yes, you can’. However, the longer answer is ‘Yes, as long as the course and the institution offering the course are accredited with the South African Qualifications Authority’. Fortunately, most large and reputable universities and colleges meet these requirements.

You still have options to finance your education, whether you’re in class or not

The only other requirement when applying for a student loan is that the qualification must be at least an NQF level 5, which is a higher certificate. If your online course meets these requirements, you can go ahead and apply for a student loan.

What if it’s an international school?

Due to the weak rand, studying abroad is more costly for South Africans – not only the tuition fees, but also higher living expenses abroad. Online courses are an obvious way to get around higher living costs, because your main expense now is tuition fees, which would be paid in a foreign currency. To qualify for a student loan to study abroad, you must be taking a course that is at least the equivalent of our NQF level 5 qualification. Before you jump in with your application, first contact the Nedbank Student Loans team to see if your chosen course qualifies for a student loan.

What if your course doesn’t qualify?

What if you have found the perfect course that will give you the skills you need, but the course does not qualify for a student loan? The easiest option would be to apply for a personal loan. You won’t be getting the lower interest rate applied to student loans, but you can still pursue your dreams. You can even ask that your loan be designed around your needs and means. For instance, you could ask that you repay the loan over 5 years instead of 3. If your cashflow is under pressure, stretching out the repayment period like this means you could pay around R600 less a month for a loan of R50,000.

The other benefit of a personal loan over a student loan is that there are no restrictions on how you use the money. You could apply for a personal loan that covers your tuition fees plus materials and any other equipment, like a computer that you would need to study online. Universities and colleges are sure to return to regular physical classes at some point. But when that will be and how many will return to class remains to be seen. The good news, though, is that you still have options to finance your education, whether you are attending classes physically or virtually.