Wits students who have pending status on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursary are being asked to pay an upfront Wits registration fee, which they may not be able to afford.
STATEMENT FROM THE VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PRINCIPAL, PROFESSOR ADAM HABIB, PERTAINING TO STUDENT FUNDING AND FINANCIAL AID
The higher education sector is at risk due to a lack of substantial funding from the state and other societal actors. The amount of funding available for students in South Africa wanting to pursue tertiary education is inadequate and well below that of international norms in similar developing countries. This is a national, systemic problem that should be addressed at the highest levels of government if we are committed to investing in the future of our country.
We recognise that the funds allocated by the state to the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has quadrupled over the last five years to R9.5 billion. Despite this, the demand for financial aid still outstrips the availability of funds dedicated to higher education study.
Wits, like other higher education institutions in the country, administers funds on behalf of NSFAS. The amount of money allocated to universities from NSFAS in 2015 is limited and universities have been explicitly instructed not to overspend on the amounts allocated to them.
For 2015, Wits has been allocated R179 million by NSFAS, of which approximately R152 million has been offered predominantly to returning students. The R152 million has been offered to approximately 2 090 returning students and 330 new, first year students. It is anticipated that by the completion of registration in mid-February that Wits will have offered NSFAS funding to about 450 additional students. In total, NSFAS packages will be allocated to about 2 870 students at Wits this year.
The University will continue processing NSFAS applications as registration takes place over the next few weeks.
Wits has consistently awarded the most number of bursaries and scholarships in the country to its students, according to data collected by the Ministerial Committee on the Funding of Universities (see enclosed table, or click here). Last year, Wits administered about R828 million in student funding which it obtained from various internal and external sources including NSFAS, bursaries, scholarships, governments and the private sector.
The University must also stress that it informed students several times last year that they should prepare to pay their fees should there be insufficient funding from NSFAS. Other issues which are surfacing are that many students did not apply, or did not apply on time, while others submitted incomplete information which resulted in their applications not being processed timeously.
There is definitely a need for more financial aid for students throughout the country and rather than directing misguided anger towards universities, we should be approaching NSFAS, government and other sectors of society to collectively invest in developing the high level skills that our country and continent desperately requires.
Professor Adam Habib
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
Students receiving funding from government will still need to pay thousands of rands in registration fees that they may not be able to afford.
Wits students who have pending status on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursary are being asked to pay an upfront Wits registration fee to be registered as a student.
The Wits registration fee is R9 340. Some students on NSFAS have been asked to pay R4 670 to be cleared for registration.
The Wits fees office manager, Daya Veerasamy, said those unable to pay the fee would not be able to register and also face exclusion for the 2015 academic year.
“The money which was allocated to the university is not enough to cover all the applicants,” Veerasamy said.
Wits released a statement on Twitter saying that despite wanting to “see students succeed”, there is “limited funding within which to operate”.
The university added: “Students [on NSFAS] were sent communication last year already that they should prepare to pay the upfront fee.”
““The money which was allocated to the university is not enough to cover all the applicants””
One prospective Witsie was told that registering students are expected to raise the registration funds “to show their commitment” to their studies.
The NSFAS Wits office could not be reached for comment.
Wits Students who have not received the outcomes on their NSFAS/bursary applications are advised to contact the Fees Office on Tel: 011 717 1546/1537.
The standing SRC and Wits Student Forum (SF) had their second “student parliament” meeting on Tuesday to give a progress report to students.
The gathering of some of the executive of the SRC, members of the different school councils, and the students that both groups represent, in a freezing cold Umthombo lecture room, was unusual for at least for two reasons:
The turn out hasn’t been good
One was for the conspicuousness of students, which was hard to ignore and was duly lamented by SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa, pointing out that despite advertising the event on twitter and via posters all over campus the turn out remained disappointing.
Mgudlwa explained that the SRC was required by its own constitution to hold at least two mass meetings, of at least 500 students, during its term in office. “The turn out hasn’t been good, it’s because of that demon called student apathy that must be arrested,” Mgudlwa said addressing an audience of a little more than 20.
The importance of university politics has increased according to Richard Calland, City Press columnist and author of The Zuma Years: South Africa’s Changing Faces of Power. This sentiment, however, seems to be lost on a majority of Witsies under two weeks to 2013 SRC elections.
Holding SRC accountable
A second “unusual” thing, which seemed like an attempt to mitigate the first, was that the parliament had been opened up to ordinary students and the media, something that was not standard practice. Student Forum, according to member Angeliki Vidalis, exists to “hold the SRC accountable” in terms of the SRC constitution.
“[We’re] allowed to be in direct communication with the SRC… Students can approach Forum if they have issues [with the SRC],” said Vidalis, who is running in this year’s elections under the banner of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA).
In his address, Mgudlwa highlighted the current SRC’s successes. A major one of those was in running financial battles with the university on a number of fronts. He said his office played a big role in convincing Finco to permit international students not to have to pay their entire fees upfront. Another success was next year’s implementation of “tier system” for the payment registration fees.
Mgudlwa said the system would charge student’s a registration fee according to the amount of money they earned, with those earning less paying less and being allowed to pay it in instalments. Another coup Mgudlwa was proud to trumpet was the initiation of busses to ferry students in the evenings to Park Station, Bree and Noord taxi ranks, as well as to non-university residences around Braamfontein.
[pullquote]that demon called student apathy that must be arrested[/pullquote]
Members of the various student councils who made up most of the numbers at the meeting were unanimous in their complaints, mainly that head of schools did not take them seriously and that the fees charged by Wits for supplementary exams was too high.
Mgudlwa said the SRC had fougt very hard to get the student councils recognised. On supplementary exams, Mgudlwa said “supp fees will not get changed if [only] two SRC members raised the issue every time”.