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"Opt In Fees Don't Apply to Tertiary Students"

Opt In Fees Don't Apply to Tertiary Students: Benson-Pope

Student Choice said a statement made last week by David Benson-Pope on payments for extra curricular activities in schools has exposed the government's glaring double standard in relation to non-tuition fees paid by tertiary students.

Speaking on 11 May about school course fees, David Benson-Pope said, "unless parents opt in, they don't have to pay. This applies to extra curricular activities, like the school camp or membership of clubs. Parents only have to pay for them if they have opted in."

Student Choice spokesman Glenn Peoples said Benson-Pope's only-have-to-pay-if-you've-opted-in position is in complete contrast to the way Labour treats tertiary students. Currently over 220,000 tertiary students are forced to pay membership fees for compulsory student associations even though individual students have never opted into membership of these organisations.

Membership of most tertiary student associations is compulsory as a result of amendments to the Education Act promoted by former minister Steve Maharey and passed by the Labour government.

"If Mr Benson-Pope's opt in position was applied to the extra curricular fees paid by tertiary students, the only students who'd have to pay association membership fees would be those who've individually decided to join," Mr Peoples said.

However Mr Peoples said Labour's education act means a vote held among a small group of students at an institution can force all students at that institution to join an association and pay compulsory fees.

"Labour is prepared to tolerate this double standard because it knows compulsory student associations are politically valuable to the parties of the left. Compulsory associations are diehard opponents of centre right parties, and have also provided a valuable training ground for Labour MPs and activists. Mr Benson-Pope himself is a former president of the Student Teachers Association of New Zealand," Mr Peoples said.

Tertiary students are being treated as political pawns by the Labour government, Mr Peoples said.

Student Choice upholds voluntary student association membership on the grounds of freedom of association www.studentchoice.org.nz

ENDS

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