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Fees-free scheme takes another hit

The Government’s flagship education policy fees-free has turned out to be an even bigger flop than what Finance Minister Grant Robertson recently admitted to, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Shane Reti says.

“A briefing from Education Minister Chris Hipkins says ‘the impact of the fees-free policy on students’ study choices is expected to be limited’ showing the Minister knew last year the policy would have little impact on students.

“This is a clear admission from the Minister that fees-free is a waste of money.

“But while the policy has had little impact on students, it’s left huge administrative costs to Universities, with collective costs of $600,000 to administer the policy, only to have fewer enrolments. The Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Commission paid a staggering $8 million implementing the policy.

“The Prime Minister and Mr Hipkins have attempted to justify the lower enrolments by saying the number was already falling. But in the same briefing where the Minister admits fees-free is a failure, it notes apprentice numbers are actually up but they weren’t participating in fees-free.

“The briefing also notes there is no record of whether students who took up fees-free completed or failed their courses.

“This is a $2.8 billion policy, to not know how many students passed their studies not only makes a mockery of fees-free, but it shows how willing this Government is to throw money around without doing the background work to make it a policy that makes meaningful, targeted change.

“Labour spent nine years in Opposition, it had time to ensure it got the detail right with this policy. Instead fees-free was used as big election bribe and as a result has been a waste of money. The Government’s poor spending priorities has resulted in teachers gearing up for the largest ever industrial action.

“The Minister’s statement there’s no more money for teachers is a tough pill to swallow when he’s also confirmed his billion dollar policy for students has had little impact. He needs to put an end to speculation on the year two and three rollouts.”

See attached a briefing note to the Education Minister on August fees-free enrolment data.

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