Short-sighted funding cuts cap nation’s potential
Student leaders are echoing the sentiments of the Massey Extramural Students’ Society, who are calling for a review of the Government’s approach to tertiary education due to the impact this is having on older and distance students.
“Every New Zealander has the right to
access the tertiary education appropriate for them,
throughout their lives. Unfortunately we have seen many
moves to limit access to tertiary education over the past
few years. Recent capped enrolments and cuts to loans mean
individual students are missing out and
paying the price for the Government’s short-sightedness,” said NZUSA Co-President David Do.
“Next week’s Budget needs to be
about investing for the future through education, rather
than shortsighted penny pinching. The Government’s lack of
proper investment is putting a cap on our nations’
potential, doors have already closed for many, and
opportunities are being lost,” said Do.
High unemployment and the impacts of an economic recession mean many people are out of work and having to look at different and new employment opportunities.
“But instead of taking advantage of this pool of people ready to up-skill and retrain, the Government has locked thousands of qualified potential students out of education opportunities by putting up more and more barriers to entry,” added Do.
In 2010, sustained underfunding of the tertiary sector led to institutions turning away thousands of potential students and the introduction of new managed enrolment schemes, signalling a move away from a cornerstone of the New Zealand tertiary system since World War Two – open entry at a general level.
“We have also seen increased restrictions
on student loans, which for most students are the only way
to help finance their education and living costs. So far the
Government has implemented a seven year fulltime cap on
loans, effectively putting a lifetime limit on learning. It
has reduced loan access to
permanent residents, when many of them need education to help settle them into New Zealand,” said Do.
“And now its set to tighten things even further, with Minister Steven Joyce signalling targeting of students over 55 next week’s Budget by reducing their access to student loans in what can only be described as age discrimination,” said Do.
“If we believe in lifelong learning and ensuring everyone can access the education that is right for them, then the Government needs to change direction. We need a vision for education which acknowledges the needs of our diverse society, from school leavers to home-makers to those recovering from job losses,” concluded Do.
NZUSA is the national representative body for tertiary students and has been advocating on student issues since 1929.