Wednesday, February 28, 2024

BROWN: Govt Fees-Free Policy is a fail

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OPINION: The Labour-led Government’s election bribe of fees-free tertiary education has been a complete failure with the Government’s own numbers showing that the number of students in tertiary education and training continues to fall.

Last week the Government released figures that show there are 2400 fewer students in tertiary education and training than a year ago, despite the Government’s Fees-Free policy costing taxpayers $2.8 billion.

This expensive policy was designed to attract more students into tertiary education and it has completely failed.

Universities have had only 10 more students enrol, Wananga have decreased by 1188 and PTEs have decreased by 674.

More concerning is the fact that there are 4740 fewer people undergoing Industry Training at a time when we’re desperately short of skilled workers.

As National’s Associate Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson, it is concerning to see so much taxpayer money going towards a policy which is having the opposite effect of what it was designed to do.

The Government should have never over-promised and should be spending this money in education areas where it is really needed.

The question the Government now has to answer is whether they will be going ahead and making the second and third years free as they have promised?

Whilst the policy will help reduce overall student debt when they leave tertiary education, the fact of the matter is that those who have a university qualification will earn on average $1 million more over their lifetime than those who don’t.

This means they are receiving a massive personal benefit, while those working hard in low-paying jobs and paying taxes will be further subsidising their education.

Already, 80 per cent of tertiary education fees are subsidised by the Government and a generous interest-free policy is in place.

The Government should admit that this flagship policy is a failure and that it isn’t increasing participation in tertiary education, and instead redirect the billions of dollars to where it’s actually needed.

  • Simeon Brown, MP for Pakuranga

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