Emails and text messages flood student inboxes with messages from the Wits Fees Office, marked “Student bill statement” – yet students still feel their communications are not adequate.
The problem is not that there is insufficient communication, claim students, but rather that important information is either too vague or not communicated to students at all.
Tumelo Munzhelele, 4th year Chemical Engineering, said she regularly found charges she didn’t understand. “They’ll say things like miscellaneous charges. Like, what does that mean?”
Student fees manager, Daya Veerasamy, said communication happened through various channels so students could check the charges and payments on their statements. “If students have issues, they can come to us and we will assist them.”
However, communication ceases as soon as the student’s fees are paid – even if the university owes them money.
Wits might owe you
Nokuthula Manyathi, a Wits Vuvuzela journalist, said she stopped checking her fee statements in June after she no longer received email notifications from the fees office. She felt this was an indication that her bursary had paid her fees in full.
But the bursary had in fact paid the university a sizeable surplus, which Manyathi was not notified of. It was only through a reconciliation statement from her bursar that she realised there was an inconsistency.
“Students should know when they’ve paid and even when they’ve overpaid,” Veerasamy said.
Former Witsie, Palesa Thanjekwayo, was in her third year when she made amendments to her course. She made the amendments before the stipulated deadline, which meant she would not incur any charges.
About two months later, the student checked her fee statement and found charges listed as cancellation fees. “I went to the fees office and asked them what the charges were for since I had amended in time. I thought it was a mistake.”
Veerasamy explained that faculties often sent through notice of course changes long after the deadline. This meant the fees office had no idea whether the student had amended before the deadline or not, meaning students were almost inevitably charged.
The mystery cancellation charges
Thanjekwayo did not understand why the fees office had kept quiet about the inevitability of charges being placed on the statement. “They kept it secret. Now that I think about it, there were probably more wrong charges that they kept quiet about and I paid for.”
Veerasamy said the onus was on students to check their statements and speak to their faculties after registration or amending courses.