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Tertiary education is for those who can afford it

10 May 2005

Govt: tertiary education is for those who can afford it

The Government's decision today to forge ahead with a tertiary savings scheme is a clear signal that it believes tertiary education to be a privilege for the select few who can pay for it, the Green Party says.

"Introducing incentives for people to save for tertiary education is a great thing for those who can afford it, but no help whatsoever for the bulk of students," Green Tertiary Education Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos said.

"This savings scheme makes the Government's philosophy on tertiary education clear: private good, public bad. The scheme will further erode the idea that education is a public good and will strengthen the notion that tertiary education is a private benefit which should be increasingly funded through individual contributions.

"The scheme is just another step towards the privatisation of education, and a complete departure from the traditional expectation that society provides low-cost tertiary education in return for an obligation on graduates to give back to the community. From a government that came to power promising to make tertiary education more affordable for all students, this is a backward step.

"Rather than further pushing the line that tertiary education is a private good that should be individually funded, the Government should be committing to a publicly-funded high-quality education system that provides equal access to all people, not just those who can afford to pay for it."

A private savings scheme is highly regressive, Nandor said.

"Let us not have any illusions about the effect this policy will have. It will make it easier for the already wealthy to get access to tertiary education, whilst discriminating against low-income families.

"Educationalists have rightly warned that we risk setting up a two-tier tertiary education system - one for those who are able to save privately, and another inferior one for those dependent on an underfunded public system."

The savings scheme is evidence that the Government has no plan to make tertiary education affordable for New Zealanders of all backgrounds, Nandor said.

"Average tuition fees have increased by 61 percent, from $3,499 to $5,644, since 1998. Under Labour's watch, tertiary education has become less affordable for low-income New Zealanders and fewer students are accessing allowances. This savings scheme is yet another sign that the Government doesn't care who it's shutting out of the tertiary education system."

ENDS

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