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Agreement reached on NSFAS funding

- Wits University

Joint statement from Wits University and the Students' Representative Council:

Wits University has on Thursday, 22 January 2015 reached an agreement with its Students’ Representative Council (SRC) following concerns raised by students on Wednesday, 21 January 2015 regarding the shortage of funding that is provided by government and administered by Wits through the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). This shortage is due to the demand for financial aid outstripping the funds dedicated to NSFAS by the state.

Wits has decided that the upfront fee payment will be temporarily waived for first year students only who have applied for NSFAS, meet the NSFAS criteria, and who have received an academic offer from the University. The waiver will apply until such time as the final NSFAS allocations have been made, which is expected to happen by Friday, 30 January 2015. Thereafter, for those students who have received NSFAS funding, the waiver will become permanent and they will not have to make the upfront payment. For those students who have been declined NSFAS funding, the waiver will be revoked and they will be given five working days in which to make half of the upfront payment, which amounts to R4 670. If these students are not able to meet this payment, their academic offers will be withdrawn.

Regarding residence accommodation, those who do not receive NSFAS funding in the final allocation by 30 January 2015 will be expected to make the normal residence accommodation payments. Students who were allocated NSFAS funding in 2014 and were unable to access the funding following a shortage will be treated as normal NSFAS students, provided that they applied and met the criteria for 2015 NSFAS funding. The University will come to an arrangement with NSFAS in this regard. The 30 students who were given offers by NSFAS which were later retracted will be absorbed into the system. The University has also undertaken to expedite the financial aid appeals process.

The SRC also raised concerns regarding reports of problems in the submission of the documents that are necessary to apply for financial aid. The University will assist students who have experienced problems and refer these students to the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office (FASO). The affected students are requested to visit Room 1103A, First Floor, Senate House from 13:00 on Thursday, 22 January 2015 until close of business on Tuesday, 27 January 2015.

With regard to the queries about returning students who have not been given NSFAS, the SRC has undertaken to provide the names of these students to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Professor Andrew Crouch, who will investigate the matter and provide feedback to the SRC.

Wits is entirely comfortable with the principle of transparency in these matters and documents will be made available to the SRC upon request.

The University and its SRC hope that this agreement will go some way towards alleviating the significant financial challenges that many students are facing. Wits remains strongly committed to enabling the maximum possible number of deserving students to enter the higher education system this year.

Professor Andrew Crouch, Chairperson: Financial Aid, Scholarship and Merit Awards Committee

Mcebo Freedom Dlamini, President: Wits SRC

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