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Student funding and registration

- Wits University

Details on NSFAS, gap funding for the missing middle, historical debt and registration.

The registration process is currently underway and while many have registered, the University is aware that others have been unable to register due to a lack of financial resources.

The University has been engaging the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and other stakeholders on these issues since last year, as well as in recent days, and the following has been agreed:

DHET contribution to fee increase

The DHET will cover the fee increase of 8% (gap funding) for 2017 for South African students whose combined family income is below R600 000 per annum. This includes both students on NSFAS (National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme) and ‘missing middle’ students. The DHET has established a process for the identification and verification of the ‘missing middle’ cohort common to all universities. Only South African citizens and permanent residents studying towards a 2017 qualification will be considered. Students are required to apply for this gap funding via the Wits Student Self Service portal.  

Students on NSFAS or awaiting NSFAS feedback

The DHET will pay for all students who have qualified for support from NSFAS, including those with historical debt. Students on NSFAS may also register without making the first fee payment in January 2017. Please note that all students in this category must sign a loan agreement form with NSFAS in order to obtain this funding.   

Students who are still awaiting the outcome of their application from NSFAS may register and delay the first fee payment to the end of March 2017. Please note that proof of application from NSFAS is required by the Fees Office before students can register.

Students in the ‘missing middle’ with historical debt

The vice-chancellors of all universities met this week with the DHET for clarity on the support to students in the ‘missing middle’ with historic debt. Wits recommended that students in this category be fully supported. The DHET, however, indicated that there were no funds available and that students in the ‘missing middle’ are responsible for their own respective historical debt. The Department recommended that universities assist as far as possible to register academically successful students with historical debt if such students (a) settle their debt or (b) commit to payment plans. These financial concessions are to be undertaken without breaching the fiduciary responsibilities and without compromising the financial sustainability of universities. 

Wits is mindful of the current economic climate and the financial pressure experienced by students and their families. The University is trying to assist as many students as possible, while remaining financially sustainable.

Recognising the financial hardships faced by some students and after consultation with the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), the Senior Executive Team has approved the following policy for registration in 2017 for students in the ‘missing middle’ with historical debt:

  • All students who owe R10 000 or less will have their debt automatically rolled into their 2017 fees and will be allowed to register.
  • Students who have debt higher than R10 000 will be requested to pay half the outstanding balance and enter into a payment plan for the remainder of the funds, before being allowed to register.

Interest will not be charged if students abide by the payment plan.

This is the extent to which the University can assist students without compromising its financial sustainability. We believe that these financial concessions will enable the majority of students at Wits to register for the 2017 academic year.

It must be noted that the University, in granting assistance, must do so in accordance with the legislative framework governing the granting of credit by educational institutions.

Fundraising

The University and the SRC are continuing to work to attract funding for bursaries, scholarships and financial aid. In 2016, Wits administered about R1 billion in financial aid, scholarships and bursaries that assisted more than 22 000 students.

Students who require funding for 2017 can apply via The Donation Discretionary Fund on the Student Self-Service portal. The application will be added to a database which will be used to pair students with suitable donors, when the University receives such funding. A form with supporting documentation needs to be uploaded onto the portal.

This application is separate to the Gap Funding application described above and does not guarantee funding.

Lasting solutions

A new model for the financing of the higher education system is a national priority and we are hopeful that long-term solutions for the financing of the higher education system will be announced during the course of the year.

The stability of the higher education system is essential if it is to continue to produce the graduates, professionals and research required to enable the inclusive economic development of our country and the addressing of the triple challenges of inequality, poverty, and unemployment.

We appeal to all students and other stakeholders to work with the University to constructively find lasting solutions that are beneficial for all.

Thank you

SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM

22 JANUARY 2017

 

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