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Knee-capping fee caps will kneecap students

27 November 2008

Knee-capping fee caps will kneecap students

Auckland students are alarmed at suggestions of reducing or eliminating caps on fee rises. Students are concerned that unrestrained fee rises will increase student hardship and shut out potential future achievers.

The Vice Chancellors Committee today called for increased government funding for universities – failing that, they would seek “greater flexibility around fee setting”. Auckland University Chancellor Hugh Fletcher said: "I just think it's a nonsense for the Government to be controlling fees."

“We agree universities need more government funding to provide high quality education for all. But raising fees with no end in sight is a short-term solution that will exacerbate student debt and deter future students,” says AUSA President David Do.

Increasing already high fees will put more of the cost burden on students, who currently graduate with an average $28,000 of debt(student loan and private debt). Most students are currently not eligible for a student allowance and must borrow to live. Collectively, New Zealanders shoulder over $10 billion of student debt. Auckland University Deputy Vice Chancellor(Research) Jane Harding said on Radio New Zealand this morning that if fee caps were lifted fees would not rise immediately.

“This assertion is highly questionable. When tertiary institutions were free to set their own fees in the 1990s, average tuition fees skyrocketed to over $4000 by 2000. It was also an excuse for the then-National government to reduce public funding, not increase it, ” says Do.

Increasing already high fees will deter access to higher education. Fear of getting into student debt is one of the chief barriers in accessing higher education, especially for those from Maori, Pasifika, and lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Raising fees will likely counter any positive efforts to engage more with lower decile schools to encourage achievement into tertiary education,” adds Do.

“While we accept a universal student allowance won't come under this Government, we hope it does have the good sense to boost public funding into universities and not 'knee cap' student fee caps,” concludes Do.


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