Hefty cost for academic transcripts fazes students

CORRECTION: Wits Vuvuzela acknowledges Wits Registrar Carol Crosley was originally misquoted in saying that: Wits is in the process of implementing a self-service statement where students can print an “official” copy of their transcripts. It was meant to read as “unofficial”. We regret this error which has been corrected in the copy below.

Affording an academic transcript for a job interview or university application can be costly for a newly qualified student.

Wits Vuvuzela looked into the cost of academic transcripts at universities around South Africa and found that Wits is the most expensive when it comes to ordering a transcript.

The cost at Wits for an academic transcript is R50 for current students and R100 for Wits alumni.

With graduation taking place at least six to eight months after qualification, especially for honours and master’s students, a student will only receive their free copy a week after graduation. But this poses a problem for those applying for jobs straight after university.

History honours graduate Mick Channon said he had to buy one when he applied for a teaching post at the beginning of this year as he is only graduating in June this year.
“I was shocked that I had to pay R100 for a piece of paper,” Channon said.

Robyn Kirk, a Journalism honours graduate said the price of academic transcripts at Wits “is ridiculous”.

“I studied at Rhodes for my undergrad and there we could order as many transcripts as we needed for free.”

Wits Registrar Carol Crosley said that last year the price of transcripts was brought down from R120 to R100 for alumni.

“I was shocked that I had to pay R100 for a piece of paper,”

“It’s not a money-making scheme, the special watermarked paper and security measures that are imprinted within that paper are expensive. The price we charge basically covers costs,” she said.

Crosley also said Wits is in the process of implementing a self-service statement where students can print an unofficial copy of their transcripts “which will be useful for applying for jobs” before receiving an official copy at graduation.

Wits Vuvuzela called the records department at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and was told it costs R50 for alumni to apply for an academic transcript and they receive three official copies.

The University of Pretoria allows students to print transcripts out and have them officially stamped for free. But for alumni, it costs R50. However, they are implementing a new verification process where the older the date of qualification, the longer the waiting process and more expensive the transcript.

The University of Stellenbosch charges alumni R75 for a copy of a transcript. If a student or alumni prints out their own record a small fee is charged to have it stamped.

“I think it’s so stupid,” said a Stellenbosch alumni who asked to remain anonymous.

Tuition fees burn pockets

By Luca Kotton  and Roxanne Joseph

A proposed 10% hike in tuition fees next year will have an adverse effect on Wits University students, particularly those from poor and working class families, according to an economist.

Michael Keenan, an ABSA Bank economist, said the proposed increase from January 2015 will be well above next year’s average wage increase, expected to be about 8%.

He said the increase means that self-funded students whose parents will not receive a large enough salary increase will most likely be unable to afford their tuition fees.

“Inflation hurts the poor man more than the wealthy man,” he said.

Keenan said the increase may not be felt by higher income groups as individual net savings and wage increases will ensure that students from wealthier families are not affected by the hike.

Many Witsies said they would struggle to pay higher fees.

“Fees at the moment are quite hard to meet, I still haven’t paid mine,” said Quaanitah Manique, a first year chemical engineering student.

She also added there are other expenses like transport that are extra costs in addition to the increased fees.

“There are other things, like if you have to come with the bus, there’s fees to be paid, now you have to pay extra fees for varsity,” Manique said.

When asked how it will affect their day-to-day lives, first year   dental hygiene student Irene Sekiti said she will not be able “make a life outside of this degree”.

“I won’t have money to go out with my friends. It’s not actually a good thing to increase our fees, they are already high, what’s the point of increasing them?”

Deputy Vice-chancellor of Finance Prof Tawana Kupe attributed the fee increase to a combination of three things: inflation, the cost of importing university resources and the lack of government subsidies.

“Government subsidies are not increasing by inflation,” he said. “The average [increase] we expect this year is 3.4%, which is way below inflation. So you’ve got to take care of that funding gap in government subsidies.”

Kupe expected that students will react with concern over fee increases but described them as “understanding” when consulted by university management earlier this year. He added that he was not personally happy over the fee increase.

“I’m not jumping for joy, I would love the day where we can increase fees by only 5%, but that is not the reality,” he said.

Last week the SRC announced that the upfront fee will remain the same as this year, but did not address the overall increase in tuition fees.

The increase, like the upfront fees freeze still needs to be approved by the university Council, during a meeting on October 4, according to university Registrar Carol Crosley.

Red tape still a bind for students

Against all odds: Jeffrey Choma pictured outside CNS, is one of the few students successfully registered for Wits  WiFi services.              Photo: Luke Matthews

AGAINST ALL ODDS: Jeffrey Choma pictured outside CNS, is one of the few students successfully registered for Wits WiFi services.
Photo: Luke Matthews

By Lameez Omarjee and Rofhiwa Madzena

Despite the introduction of online registration to make the experience “more convenient”, Witsies still complain that administrative processes are tedious and discouraging.

Claiming back money

Sinoxolo Msomi, 3rd year BEconSci, said claiming money back from Wits “just took too long”. It took a month to resolve her issue with the fees office.“Everyone I would talk to would refer me to someone else.  They first told me I could claim back money via telephone and just give my bank details but then I found out I had to fill in a form.” She speculated that the cause of the delay was due to the fact that the sum of money was large. 

To claim money back, students are required to get a stamped bank statement and verification from their parents or the person or entity that paid their fees, as well as certified copies of their IDs. Students say this means a great deal of running around. 

Lengthy waiting periods

Students also complained about the time it took for their cell phones and tablets to be registered for WiFi access on campus.  Rosina Mabapa, 3rd year BA, said: “I don’t think it’s amazing, [and] it could be better”. Xolani Hadebe, acting director at Computer and  Network Services (CNS) said: “I’m aware that the process of registering online for WiFi access is a tedious one so we are phasing that out.”  Students will in future be able to gain access to WiFi using their login details.

Carol Crosley, deputy registrar of enrolment, acknowledged that students are often sent from “pillar to post” because staff did  not feel empowered to address issues or make decisions about problems that did not fall within their capacity.  But she said staff referred students to people who were better able to solve their problems.

The registration process

Online registration was introduced as a pilot project this year, in order to give students the “freedom and flexibility to register from home”, said Crosley.  Some students found it a great improvement.

Bambi Stewart, 3rd year BA, said, “I feel that it’s [online registration] much better now, especially the registration process for BA students because I felt it was the most tedious process ever. I managed to do it in two hours whereas in first year it took me two days, but everything is a bit better now.”

[pullquote]”although online registration was effective in reducing queues, it would not always be possible to remove human interaction entirely.”[/pullquote]

But other students still complained about having to come to campus to reregister manually because their subject choices did not show when they registered online.

Crosley said that, although online registration was effective in reducing queues, it would not always be possible to remove human interaction entirely.  Many students still needed career guidance and help with subject choices.    

Service survey facilities

Electronic survey facilities are available to measure service delivery at admin points like the Student Enrolment Centre, the Fees Office and some faculties. However, only a small number of students fill in these surveys, according to Crosley. 

The majority of students approached by Wits Vuvuzela were either unaware of the survey facilities or were unsure about what they were when they saw them on campus.

International students’ registration

International students have also complained about the services at the Wits International Office.Manager Gita Patel said the process became lengthy when documents had to be sent through to Home Affairs for verification. She added that, because students had to wait for Home Affairs, the office “allows students to register with acknowledgement of receipt [from Home Affairs]”.

Patel also said that it was up to students to follow up with the office to make sure their registration was on track.