By Luke Reid
The Rhodes University Registrar’s division was forced to extend the deadline for the 2007 Minimum Initial Payment (MIP) of fees by a week because a large number of returning students had not paid in time for the initial deadline of February 12. In spite of this move, a significant number of returning students were not given the places in residence that they had been provisionally granted. Although some of these places were deliberately given up, a significant number of students had technical problems or forgot about the deadline, and on arrival in Grahamstown found they had no accommodation.
Some students feel that the university’s communication around MIPs was inadequate. Several residences had to elect new house committee members because those originally elected had lost their rooms in the residence.
“I understand it’s my problem, but I just wish they’d said before I arrived,” says Simone Peinke, a second year student who lost her place in Dingemans, where she was the entertainment representative.
“I only found out when I got here, and it’s a huge shock. There’s a lot of unplanned additional expense.”
Candice Hittler lost her place in Milner due to a technical delay with her bank transfer which she was not aware of. She only discovered this by chance when she phoned her warden four days before arriving back.
“If they could have just made some attempt to communicate with me, if my warden could have phoned me. Especially if you’re on the house committee.”
The relevant personnel in the finance division and Registrar’s division feel that there was more than sufficient warning about the MIP deadline. They have also gone to considerable effort to accommodate those who did not pay in time or were unable to pay, particularly foreign students. In numerous cases they have provided personalised solutions to individual problems, such as lowering the stipulated MIP rate. This year, many Zimbabwean students have had difficulty in transferring funds due to a shortage of foreign currency in the Zimbabwean Reserve Bank. “We’ve not turned anyone away, but there’s some who we’ve had to ask to get the money first and then come back,” says Raymond Harris, accountant in the Finance Division. “With deserving students we will help them with a bursary”.
It is likely that many of these problems would have been avoided if a newly developed automatic SMS service had been used to warn students about the impending deadline and to confirm their payment. This was initiated in the first half of last year.
“It was meant to happen and it didn’t happen,” says Natalie Ripley in the university’s Data Management Unit.
“There were a number of problems, because there were many people involved.”