23 May 2012
2012 Budget Release – More Doors Closing for NZ Students?
NZUSA believes that early statements from Government regarding the Tertiary Education Budget indicate a bleak picture for New Zealand’s Tertiary Students.
“Over the past few years, we have seen courses cut, scholarships slashed, departments downsized and staff sacked while student hardship goes through the roof in a Tertiary Sector under ever-increasing pressure. New Zealand Students, who are some of the most indebted in the world, are facing a generation of indebtedness in a depressed labour market, and as a result, many are leaving the country to seek brighter prospects elsewhere,” said Pete Hodkinson, President of the New Zealand Union of Students Associations.
“In the last year alone we saw the removal of student loans for living and course costs for people aged over 55, removal of the course-related costs component of student loans for part-time full-year students and overall funding in Tertiary Education expenses was projected to fall to 4.1 Billion by 2015 – a drop of around 300 million since 2010.”
“Students understand that there is limited funding but are looking to the government to take constructive action in this budget and start investing in education, ensuring fair access, and tackling student debt” Said Hodkinson “but if what we have seen so far is any indication then the budget falls well short of “constructive action” and will follow the pattern of previous budgets, slamming the doors of Tertiary Study in the face of more New Zealanders.”
“We have seen a lot of mixed statements in the big picture leading up to this budget day. For example, the proposed removal of access to allowances during post-graduate study comes at the same time as proposals to implement a compulsory postgraduate qualification for anyone considering a career in teaching. We are told that the changes are aimed at decreasing student debt, but Joyce has clearly stated that those who can no longer access allowances are still able to borrow for living costs – what message are we sending?”
“The government is holding to their 2011 intention to freeze the loan repayment threshold at $19,084 which every year drags more people into a pool of New Zealanders who are being forced to pay for what the government calls the private benefit of Education but it does so before that benefit is realised by the student. We should be allowing our students the opportunity to establish themselves financially before tightening what is already a very tight budget for them.”
“Both Australia and the US have systems which target students who are at least making a living above the poverty-line and meanwhile our repayments are kicking in too low and are proposed to increase by a further 20%. It is disappointing that we cannot foster an environment where New Zealanders can make ends meet and meet the needs of their country.”
“It is certain that much debate lies ahead in regards to whether there is a right balance between funding student loan schemes, student allowances and the tertiary institutions themselves. The bottom line is though, that a time of high unemployment and low wage growth is not the time to make education more expensive. It’s the perfect time to invest so that people are getting skills and improving their potential productivity for when the jobs are there.”
“At the end of the day, the implications of this budget go beyond just students with loans. We are talking about New Zealander’s who want to be able support their families while improving their career prospects and contribution to New Zealand. What we appear to be facing, however, are further cuts sending more New Zealanders overseas in the hope of a better future.”
NZUSA is the national representative body for tertiary students and has been advocating on student issues since 1929.