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Fee Freeze? Yes Please

The Aotearoa Tertiary Students Association (ATSA) has kicked off a nationwide Fee Freeze Campaign this week with an open letter to all Councils of public tertiary institutions in New Zealand urging them to accept the government’s fee stabilisation offer for 2002.

“While acknowledging that the offer has its limitations, ATSA believes acceptance signals an institution’s commitment to its students - the fundamental stakeholders in the tertiary system,” stated ATSA National President Keith Clark.

“If institutions do not accept the government’s offer, students will be hit with fee increases ranging into the hundreds of dollars,” stated Clark. “Students are already struggling to afford the entrance fee into the ‘Knowledge Economy’ with the average student loan borrower accumulating a debt of over $12,000. Students simply can not afford to pay higher fees.”

A Colmar Brunton public opinion survey commissioned by ATSA and NZUSA found that 75% of New Zealanders think tertiary education fees are already too high.

“It is clear that the public won’t tolerate further fee increases,” stated Clark. “This is not just student pressure on our tertiary institutions to accept the government’s offer. The wider community is clearly right behind us on this issue.”

(Open letter attached)

For further comment, contact: Keith Clark ATSA National President Office 04 499 9716 Cellphone 025 756 526

6 August 2001

An Open Letter to the Council Members of

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Publicly Funded Tertiary Institutions

Dear Councillors

SUBJECT: The Government’s Fee Stabilisation Offer for 2002

As members of the governing bodies of Aotearoa New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, you must decide very soon whether or not to accept the Government’s fee stabilisation offer for the 2002 academic year. ATSA realises that the proposed increase may fall short of what many of you believe is necessary, but ask that you vote to accept the offer. This request is based on several observations, as detailed below.

Students are already paying excessive tuition fees.

This year, we estimate that students at Colleges of Education, Polytechnics, Universities, and Wananga will commit themselves to more than $400 million of Student Loan Debt to pay their tuition fees. Total Student Loan Debt now exceeds $4.2 billion.

· We trust that you understand clearly that the students and their families in your communities cannot afford to pay more for their education.

Rejecting the offer has possible negative implications for the survival of some institutions.

If Councils reject the current offer, any subsequent fee increases imposed may result in fewer student enrolments in 2002 and subsequent years. This has potentially serious implications for the long-term survival of many institutions as providers of high quality education.

At the very least, a cost-benefit analysis of fees increases vs. future enrolment trends should be provided to all institutions’ Council members before they make any decision to reject the offer.

· Any rational decision to reject the offer must include consideration of the long term effects higher student fees may have on future enrolment trends.

Council Members Have Statutory Obligations to Students

As part of your deliberations, ATSA asks you to keep in mind your duties as Councillors under the Education Act of 1989, “to ensure that proper standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest and the well-being of students attending the institution are maintained.”

Any decisions you make that will result in additional personal costs to students must involve consideration of this statutory duty to have concern for their well-being. In reaching your decisions, you must consider the additional financial burdens students will face if you vote to reject the Fee Stabilisation offer.

· As the governing leaders of our public tertiary institutions, Councillors have a duty to protect the rights and interests of students. Council members must not abrogate that responsibility lightly.

Council Members Have a Duty to Ensure Educational Quality is not Compromised

ATSA fully understands that acceptance of the offer may generate demands from management to rationalise aspects of the way institutions operate. We ask you all as Councillors to keep the interests of students at the very centre of your considerations, and ensure management does the same. Regardless of the decisions you finally make, any reduction on operational expenses must come for non-core activities.

· Any rationalisation to reduce costs must not be at the expense of students’ educational needs.

As Council members, you must not trade off students rights to affordable education. ATSA trusts that any decisions you make will be based on this fundamental principle. Rejection of the offer and increasing student fees could be seen as a contravention of that standard, and your duty as Councillors.

Please vote for acceptance of the Government’s offer.

Yours sincerely

Keith Clark National President Aotearoa Tertiary Students Association – Te Whanau Tauira o Aotearoa

ENDS


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