Delays in monthly allowances reaching National Student Financial Aid Schemes (NSFAS) students are making it difficult for them to make it through the month, according to the SRC.
Students have taken to Twitter with their complaints. “The universities expect students to pass on hungry stomachs. Impossible,” one student, who wished to remain unnamed, told Wits Vuvuzela.
[pullquote]“No doubt financing at universities is one of the biggest challenges we are facing in higher education. The demand exceeds supply.”[/pullquote]
The university has assisted him by providing funds to make up for NSFAS being behind with their monthly payments.
In a Wits Town Hall meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said: “No doubt financing at universities is one of the biggest challenges we are facing in higher education. The demand exceeds supply.”
Students whose families earn above R150 000 a year are excluded from government funding. This can still exclude a “middle-working class” family if university fees are R50 000 and living in res costs about the same, Habib said.
“We are still not capturing the vast majority and the country is never going to achieve its skills target without a more open approach to funding.”
Habib said: “Three percent (R73-million) of the Council budget has been allocated to bursaries, and the university added an extra R20-million for postgraduate studies for 2014. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Wits only receives 25% (R600-million) of government subsidies allocated to university bursaries, one of the lowest in the country. With government subsidies declining, the only way the university can “retain our income is by increasing our fees. I am very mindful of this,” he said.
He said Wits is rethinking how bursaries are allocated, namely the way it appoints merit awards. At the moment, students are given funds according to the number of As they get, but Deputy Vice Chancellor Tawana Kupe is investigating changing it to work on a points system instead.
When asked about students who cannot rely on merit awards to help fund their studies and face academic exclusion (as their marks are suffering due to a lack of funding), Habib said: “These cases of financial aid are catered for through NSFAS, but what is our mechanism to support both sets of students, as this is a legitimate concern.”