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International survey out of date, and flawed

19 April 2005

International survey out of date, and seriously flawed

Acting Education Minister David Benson-Pope said today that an international survey on the affordability of higher education by the Washington-based Educational Policy Institute (EPI) "is seriously flawed and uses out-of-date data".

"This survey bases most of its findings about New Zealand on data from the University at Buffalo International Higher Education Finance and Accessibility Project which is incorrect. The level of fees is overstated, and the data is based on figures from 2000 and 2001. It ignores the effect of major changes in student support policy and assistance introduced since then. Time periods have also been mixed up throughout the survey," Mr Benson-Pope said.

"Fee information is also unweighted, and assumes a distribution of students across fields of study that bears little resemblance to reality.

"New Zealand is assessed by this institute as having the second highest living cost of any country, far higher than the United States, Australia, European countries or Canada and 50 percent above Ireland. These sorts of figures on our cost of living are just not true.

"The purchasing power parities (PPP) index used in this study is a tool for assessing national income or GDP, but is not normally used for working out what could otherwise be purchased by the consumer. In addition, the measure of GDP used by EPI is out of date. Recently released OECD data shows that EPI have understated New Zealanders’ incomes by 10 percent and overstated the incomes in countries like Canada, Japan and Ireland.

"The institute has also misinterpreted average student loans data from the Student Loan Scheme annual report, again to New Zealand’s disadvantage.

"Since 2000, the source of most of the data in this survey, the Labour-led government has introduced a series of measures to make tertiary education more accessible and affordable for all New Zealanders. Contrary to the report's claims, New Zealand university fees are now more than one third lower than the fees charged to students at universities in Australia.

"Between 2000 and 2004, students have been saved $250.9 million in interest charges that have been written off as a result of the full interest write-off policy introduced in 2000. Average tuition fees in universities fell by 8 percent in inflation-adjusted terms between 2000 and in 2003.

"Student loan repayment policies have also been softened and eligibility criteria for student allowances has been widened. Budget 2004 injected an additional $110 million in student support, and we're expecting borrowing by students to come down by around $20 million a year as a result," Mr Benson-Pope said.


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