Wits university has invited students in need of financial assistance to apply for funding via a discretionary fund.

Current Wits students who have excelled academically as well as those who meet specific donor criteria have been thrown a financial lifeline.

The university is inviting students with financial need to apply to the discretionary fund for 2017. The Wits discretionary fund is a fund where various corporates, trust funds and individual donors donate money for the university to disburse to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Some of the donors may be specific about the programs that they wish to donate towards while others may opt for the university to allocate the donations. Those students who meet the minimum criteria, which may either be academic achievement or discipline specific depending on the donor, are encouraged to apply for this additional funding on the Wits self-service portal.

Funding is not guaranteed upon application. As explained in an email sent to all Wits students, “Your [student] application will be added to a database which will be used to pair students that match donor criteria when the University receives such funding.”

According to the Wits website, Wits administered about R1-billion in financial aid, scholarships and bursaries through fundraising efforts such as this in 2016. The university says this assisted more than 22 000 students throughout the year.

The Wits SRC says it acknowledges the usefulness of the discretionary fund but it cautions students against relying on it because receiving discretionary funds is tentative. “It’s like a hat where you are told to put your name in and it might get drawn out,” said SRC Treasurer-General Thando Mntambo.

Mntambo advises students to continue looking for alternative funding because the SRC cannot guarantee full assistance to all students who seek it although they aim to achieve “0% financial exclusion for all qualifying students”.

The Wits SRC has announced that it has raised nine bursaries for students who are coming into first year for the first time and they have secured an undisclosed number of accommodation spots at South Point residences for 2017.

Meanwhile, the staff at the fees office is currently dealing with long lines of students who have come to negotiate their debt in order to register for 2017, an image which emphasises the need for additional student funding. “We’re trying to assist everyone as soon as possible, “said Wits Fees Office Manager Ismail Soobader.

Wits Vuvuzela has not been able to establish from the bursary office how the R1-billion raised in 2016 was spent.