Vice Chancellor’s statements misleading – students
Students are calling Auckland University Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon to account for his misleading statements regarding the Government’s interest in the introduction of a universal student allowance.
“Students are the key stakeholders of the tertiary sector, and it is deeply unfortunate that Stuart McCutcheon has positioned himself against an initiative that would improve an unfair and unsustainable student support system”, says New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) Co-President Liz Hawes. “This divisive attitude of pitting students against the university's management is both unnecessary and unhelpful”, said Hawes.
In a press statement last Friday, McCutcheon commented that students in New Zealand already receive 44% of the tertiary spend whilst the OECD average is 18%.
“This argument ignores the fact that the vast majority of money the government provides for student support is through the student loan scheme. This is not money granted to students, rather it is money lent to students who borrow for both fees and living expenses. Institutions make significant gains from the student fees component which is paid directly to the institution”, said Hawes.
Contrary to McCutcheon’s assumptions, New Zealand students face some of the highest tertiary fees in the OECD, while our student support scheme is one of the most heavily restricted. There has been a 32% drop in the number of students receiving an allowance in the past seven years, and average student debt has risen 54% since 2004. Total student debt recently surpassed $10 billion, and is projected to continue rising $1 billion per year.
“This ever increasing debt is having dire consequences on our economy and our society”, says Hawes. “Aside from detrimental effects such as the declining birth rate and low levels of home ownership, student debt is directly linked to the chronic workforce shortages apparent in many key sectors.”
“The scheme’s estimated extra cost of $226 million a year is modest compared to the price of letting this debt continue to skyrocket”, says Hawes. “The government is taking a responsible step by viewing tertiary education as an investment in New Zealand. McCutcheon needs to broaden his sights and look to what is best for the whole of New Zealand's future, rather than narrowly focussing on his own little patch in Auckland today”, concludes Hawes.