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Fees-free Polytechnic Drain Should See University Subsidies Scrapped

The finding that fees-free tertiary education is leading students away from polytechnic study should see the policy scrapped and all university subsidies reviewed, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

The Union’s 2017 briefing paper, Robin Hood Reversed: How Free Tertiary Education Robs Today’s Poor for Tomorrow’s Rich, examined the case study of Scotland and warned that introducing fees-free in New Zealand “threaten[s] to reduce the already declining trades and skilled labour work force”.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “We’ve known for a while now that this policy is failing to increase tertiary enrolment, but now we see it’s actually reducing enrolment for non-university qualifications.”

“Fees-free isn’t really free: the $250 million annual cost is simply borne by taxpayers, instead of the individuals studying. By shifting the cost away from individuals, the government has removed the incentive for students to choose a career pathway that actually justifies the expense of study.”

“The lure of a taxpayer-funded university lifestyle is pulling young New Zealanders away from sorely-needed trades qualifications. The policy is worse than a waste: it’s actively harmful and should be scrapped. In fact, the failure of the policy should be taken as a reason to review the perverse effects of all university subsidies. Why are taxpayers wasting millions on luring students into sociology and musicology when the jobs are in construction and electrical engineering?"


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