Student Fees

Written By: - Date published: 11:36 am, June 26th, 2018 - 26 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags: , , , , , ,

Reposted from Nick Kelly’s Blog

One of the big policies the NZ Labour Party took into the 2017 election was to start reintroducing free education. Labour in the UK took a similar policy into their 2017 election, which is thought to have contributed to the “youth quake” which saw young voters turn out and vote for Labour in that election.

In both cases this represented a significant policy U-turn for both Labour Party’s. In New Zealand user pays education really began when Labour Party Education Minister Phil Goff significantly increased fees 1990. The next National Government in 1992 increased the student loan scheme, which charged interest on money students borrowed even while they were studying. In the UK user pays tertiary education was introduced by the Blair Labour government.

In 2003 Labour had just begun its 2nd term in office. In its first term from 1999 to 2002 Labour had promised to cut the cost to students of tertiary education, and subsequently froze fees at their 1999 rate. In 2002 the promise was watered down to “keep education affordable.” What this really meant was, “allow institutions to increase fees by 5% a year.”

Just as the anti war protests were starting to tail off, the government budget announced the fee Maxima scheme allowing institutions to increase fees within the Maxima. This would be our next campaign on campus.

Institutions had been lobbying for the ability to increase fees since the 1999 freeze. Labour had failed to increase funding to tertiary institutions, citing the money they’d wasted on marketing and other waste. It was true that competition between tertiary institutions had caused significant waste. But even were this to stop, governments still needed to increase funding rather than passing increasing costs onto students.

In September 2003 the Victoria University Council attempted to hold a meeting to increase fees. The University Council decided to meet at 8am on a Friday morning thinking no student would be awake on time…wrong! The Education Action Group  I was responsible for as the VUWSA Campaigns Officer managed to successfully disrupt this meeting. Students’ Association hired a marquee and encouraged students to stay overnight (using the slogan ‘if that’s what it takes we’ll stay all night’). The university council tried to meet, but had to cancel due to the noise from students.

ALA083~1

Nick Kelly, Jasmine Freemantle (VUWSA Women’s Rights officer 2002, VUWSA President 2009 and Scott Trainor VUWSA Activities Officer during the October 2003 occupation of the Hunter Council Chamber protesting fee increases at Victoria University

A fortnight later the university attempted to reconvene, this time on a Thursday afternoon and again were unable to proceed. However they moved to another private room and passed the fee increases. As a result a number of us occupied the University Council chamber over night. The next day were decided to leave and regroup. At 3pm the next afternoon, a much bigger crowd of students returned to the Hunter Council Chamber having heard that fees had increased. The response from the University was to call in the police – who sent a number of vans and about 50 officers to remove us. The Vice Chancellor, Stuart McCutcheon who had been targeted by our campaign with charts of ‘sack McCutcheon’ came in surrounded by a number of cops telling us we had 15 minutes to leave, which after some deliberation we did.

10 minutes after leaving a large order of Hell’s Pizza arrived, intended to feed the crowd of occupying students. A number of us ate nothing but pizza for the next week.

The following week was full of protests and actions on campus. The same week Massey also had fee setting resulting in similar protests. At Vic we famously burnt an effigy of the Vice Chancellor, using my fathers 1970s brown suit.

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At the end of 2003 I ran to re-election as VUWSA Campaigns Officer. As part of my election speech I burnt the Governments Education White Paper. I was re-elected with an increased vote.

The following year, 2004, fee setting protests happened again. The University were far more prepared and had the Hunter Council chamber pretty well locked down prior to the meeting. A year later in 2005 they held the meeting out at a satellite campus out of term time. Despite this we still managed to muster a decent crowd both years. Further the issue of fee increases and student debt remained on the political agenda.

We were able to win a few victories during these years. In 2004 The Massey University Council in Palmerston North voted not to increase student fees, a move described by Education Minister Trevor Mallard as “a bad management decision” (quote from the September 2005 NZUSA Conference at Christchurch College of Education). This no increase result came from a strong campaign to by students in the city, getting support of the local council and community leaders. The following year the government replaced Council members who had voted against the increase, with members who would and did in subsequent years

2005 VUWSA President Jeremy Greenbrook leads protest march to parliament, May 2005

2005 VUWSA President Jeremy Greenbrook leads protest to parliament just before the 2005 budget.

In the 2005 election opinion polls were very close. Labour really needed to pull one out of the hat to win a third term. In May 2005 a thousand strong protest march was led by Student President Jeremy Greenbrook supported by myself and others demanding the government invest in tertiary education. A few weeks later the government were to respond, announcing in their 2005 manifesto that there would be no interest on student loans not only while students were studying (which had been introduced by Labour in 1999) but for all graduates living in New Zealand. The student and graduate vote probably was one key factor in Labour being elected for a third term.

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2005 Education Minister Trevor Mallard telling Vic Uni staff and students “there will be more money for education this budget, but not for you.” Weeks later the government announced interest free student loans.

The strange thing about a win is that it can then be hard to get people energised to keep pushing. In 2006, the year I was Student President at Victoria University, and in the 2-3 years following  fee protests smaller and far less vocal. We still continued to make the case for free education as this 2006 feature column demonstrates. And the new VUW Vice Chancellor Pat Walsh didn’t fundamentally disagree. In both 2005 and 2006 Victoria University along with a number of others applied to the Tertiary Education Commission to get an exemption from the 5% fee maxima and wanted increases of up to 10%. These applications were declined.

In Labour’s final term it began increasing eligibility to student allowances. However this would be short lived once the global financial crisis hit and then there was a change of government. National had been clear from the outset that tertiary education was not a priority for funding. True to their word, they invested very little in the sector over the next 9 years. Further they introduced a number of other damaging policies such as removing elected staff and student reps, and introducing Voluntary Student Membership (VSM) in an attempt to weakening the student movement.

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Me on a New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) organised march to parliament in January 2004.

 

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Veteran Kiwi punk rock legend Chris Knox plays at an education rally at Victoria University, May 2005.

In 2016 Labour announced it would introduce 3 years free tertiary study. As often happened in Labour’s 9 years in opposition from 2008 to 2017, they announced a detailed policy which few people read. The initial media announcement was ok, but the follow through was quite poor. It seemed like this was a fairly decent policy that would never be implemented. However 18 months later, during the election campaign Labour surprised everyone by getting its house in order. New leader, new campaign materials, and amongst other things a clear commitment to free education. And much to many people’s surprise, they won.

User pays was never a good idea. The argument about tertiary education being a private good is pretty unconvincing when there are shortages of a number of qualified graduates. The argument that graduates are paid higher so can pay back the loans may have once been true, but now graduate pay rates are often barely above the living wage. Further Student debt ballooned from 3 billion in 1999 to around 10 billion in 2006 while I was VUWSA President, and kept growing after that. Further, in the economy we are moving into, having a well educated population is essential. Removing barriers to this like crippling student debt is essential.

26 comments on “Student Fees”

  1. ianmac 1

    They say that student numbers are static this year so far but I would expect that when other folk realise the opportunities, more will enrol next year.

    • Carolyn_Nth 1.1

      The free fees for the first year was for apprenticeships as well. The figures we’ve been given so far seem to be for enrollments in Uni courses. So what are the figures for apprenticeship?

      • Venezia 1.1.1

        In spite of the very short time frame, I heard that there was a big increase in applications for the Bachelor of Nursing for 2018 at my local tertiary institute. Will the journalists seek the truth of the figures for trades enrolments & apprenticeships? Or are they so owned by their corporate masters we let one university spokesperson define the reality of the issue?

      • ianmac 1.1.2

        Yes and how about the Polytechs?

  2. Molly 2

    Was disappointed in the decision to pay the first year tertiary study at the initial rollout.

    For me, those most affected by fees change are those who have already paid for their first and second years fees and have got to their graduation year with an already sizeable loan.

    If there were financial restrictions on a universal rollout, I would have personally preferred that Labour chose those that have persisted with education and would have the greatest financial burden from increased fees. So, pay for the final year, and then increase the payment to the last two years, and so on, until the whole of tertiary education fees is gone.

    There is also the fact that the education sector has a varying degree of attrition for first year students. Partly due to a lack of awareness of what students would like to do as they move straight from secondary school, and also usually a parallel move into independent living. Also, I’m aware that there are some providers that have courses that are not fit for purpose at Level 3 and above, which needs to be addressed, but will still be eligible for fees free. Just a couple of reasons to start the fees free at the tail end, rather than the beginning of study.

    They have also created a cohort of people who are still studying who are just missing out who have no chance of getting any benefit from this policy. As they pay their student loans off in the future this knowledge will remain with them. First years students though, would be studying with the expectation that when they reach their final year, they will be able to meet their student fees without further borrowings. The psychological impact is lessened.

    I hope Labour consider their current policy, and make some adjustments.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Further, in the economy we are moving into, having a well educated population is essential.

    Not just the economy. Society and democracy requires a well educated populace. That’s why I say that people should either be in a job or at training.

    People benefit from doing more complex stuff and more of it and thus society will also benefit.

  4. Gosman 4

    It isn’t really the Graduate pay rates where University graduates earn more than non graduates. It is the long term career advancement that usually goes with a Tertiary qualification. They earn more over the course of their career not necessarily at the start.

    • mickysavage 4.1

      And at which time increased tax rates should kick in.

      Education is a public good.

      When I was at university I had my fees paid for me and I even received a modest living allowance. When my kids were at university they had student loans.

      The Government’s current policy of providing free education is a good one and what should be happening.

      Analysis (wrong in my view) to suggest that it is not having a beneficial financial effect is missing the point.

      • Baba Yaga 4.1.1

        Education is a public good that results in private reward. The public already heavily subsidise education. Those receiving the education, and with it the private reward, should contribute.

        • Macro 4.1.1.1

          Those receiving the education, and with it the private reward, should contribute.
          They do – through subsequently earning higher income and paying higher taxes. They also contribute to the society in cultural and other ways. Having a well educated population is beneficial for society.

          • indiana 4.1.1.1.1

            Here’s hoping they stay employed in the country they got their free education.

            • Macro 4.1.1.1.1.1

              In many cases they do.
              Overseas experience should not be shunned either. “Brain drains” can work both ways.

          • Baba Yaga 4.1.1.1.2

            “They do – through subsequently earning higher income and paying higher taxes. ”

            And because of those higher incomes, they can afford it. Whereas minimum wage workers are subsidising wealthy families sending their children to Uni even more under Labour.

            “Having a well educated population is beneficial for society.”
            That’s why we already subsidise it so massively. There was no need for Labours silly bribe.

            • McFlock 4.1.1.1.2.1

              Whereas minimum wage workers are subsidising wealthy families sending their children to Uni even more under Labour.

              The rest of it is the same shit fuckwits have been spouting for 30 years as an excuse for making poor people pay more than rich people for the same education, but whatever. This line of yours highlights another problem, though: if the minimum wage is not the living wage, and a minimum wage earner is a net taxpayer, then the problem is that the tax system isn’t progressive enough. It has nothing to do with what tax revenue is spent on, and everything to do with the rich not paying their fair share.

              • Baba Yaga

                You don’t define ‘rich’, so your comment is meaningless. On the ‘living’ wage, why should business pay a subsidy to workers based on a construct? Businesses should pay a market wage, then the true value of education will be enjoyed by those who decide to invest in their future.

                • McFlock

                  Lol
                  It’s always a laugh when Tories act superior by claiming to not know what everyday words mean . As if someone has made no point if they fail to cater to your conveniently special needs.

  5. saveNZ 5

    Personally think all university education should be free.

    But I think the apprentices should NOT be polytechnic based but on the job training like it used to be. That way you had linesmen and electricians and plumbers and builders and plasterers and tilers learning on the job and actually be paid while they did it and never be saddled with a student loan. Then when ready they should sit an exam just like your would for your drivers licence and then become qualified that way. A lot of people in the trade want to work not study and they should be apprentices without all the red tape that has come about to profit from the system and the government wanting to micro manage everything. Just go the drivers license way and things will pick up.

    As education has become a profit business, there has been an approach away from what is best for the student and what is best for industry to getting bums on seats at places of study and get government fees and now we even have the despicable fake degrees for residency or even human trafficking

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/104978434/Indian-human-trafficking-victim-denied-visa-after-testimony-he-feared-put-his-life-in-danger

    which would be unheard of in NZ a decade ago, (remember Taito Field?) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taito_Phillip_Field

    I paid over 10% compounding daily on my student loan in the 1990’s. So in some ways it is bitter sweet for those who might have just arrived in the country for a few years getting free fees when previous students had to pay more than most people in the world in NZ in interest with no right offs, and now same generation will be expected to pay the taxes too for the older folks and of course they want to get rid of the pensions now, something that was predicted to be a big problem by grey power 2011
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1110/S00572/grey-power-warns-of-impact-of-high-immigration-rates.htm

    So young students have a lot on their plate as do those who are in the middle and the aged who expected to be well provided for and now have overflowing hospitals and retirement rip offs as we march forward in our profits before people ways.

    Social mobility and wages are static or declining, so how do students pay off those loans and get a job with so much competition and it becoming more expensive to pay day to day expenses on low wages?

    I also find the structure of university chancellors to be disgusting. Closing the arts library in Auckland while funnelling money into the design school and other courses that are replicated in many other universities in NZ, is a case in point. We are reducing quality and diversity of education in this country.

    In spite of Jacinda apparently being an arts fan and Chloe doing art history as well as law, did not see much political interest in saving this resource or the 40 jobs, at a time when they give away water for 60 never never jobs. Sad.

    Maybe a life in NZ slogging away without art and music, planning and architecture is somebodies idea of where to scrimp and an indicator of how devoid of culture we are becoming in this county.

  6. Molly 6

    “Personally think all university education should be free.”
    Agree with you there, for all NZ citizens.

    “But I think the apprentices should NOT be polytechnic based but on the job training like it used to be. “
    IIRC, before the changes to the apprenticeship training, learning was done on the job, but it was supported by polytechnic attendance for short-term courses and examinations to ensure that the basics of that particular industry had been covered, learnt and mastered. This ensured that trainees had some experience of all aspects of their chosen industry even if their work experience or employer did not provide it. I think that was the best of both worlds.

    Currently, the quality of an apprenticeship is largely dependent on the experience and knowledge of the employer, as well as the scope of work of their employment. Theory can be attended to in a haphazard manner without practical experience, and without ensuring a quality process. Returning all apprenticeships to polytechnic, would not be practical or effective, but the neither would the avoidance of institutional standardised training and practice.

    The combination delivers more than either stand-alone system.

    (Sorry, meant to be a reply to saveNZ @ 5)

    • saveNZ 6.1

      The builders I know of is doing polytechnic work and off the job one day a week. Personally think not working, the industry is not prepared to put up with this judging by their non interest in having apprentices when they can get cheap people for cash or overseas workers cheap, high fees for the apprentice to pay for the course and at the end of the day, building work is practical and the tests should be practical and on the job related not paper pushing.

      There is a lot of mucking around to be qualified as as a registered builder and it is driving a culture of building sites of having the unqualified builders everywhere and then someone comes along at the end and signs it all off. The qualified people don’t actually do the practical work and now we get signed off buildings that are condemned before people move in aka Tauranga!

      Anyway if making polytechnics the same as universities has been to get more entry into fields like construction, they have failed, miserably, both in quality and retention of people into those fields. Time for a rethink.

      Also know a few tradies that came to NZ from Germany, and actually got residency but don’t work in that industry as it’s not a nice one to work in apparently and too ad hoc for them when they are used to quality. They now do cash work only. So actually the current system for construction does not work on so many levels, helps bad employers, lowers quality & wages and stops entry into the field for young people and is creating dangerous buildings that are signed off.

      Likewise a joke to think that NZ will be a highly educated country in a decade, we are doing the opposite with our move to make the trades the same style ad universities and recent migrants coming here are less skilled and educated than even 5 years ago.

      Our ad hoc, low quality system filled with exploiters at every turn and fake, decreasing quality degrees with NZ qualifications, while the government turns a blind eye to and encouraging a rip off culture everywhere, is destroying our country as being an honest, educated and fair one.

      Likewise our degrees will soon be the laughing stock of the Pacific – more lawyers per capita than the UK and from Jordan Williams, Barry Hart to Ken Whitney to the recent revelations on what’s going on at Russel McVeagh… sad to see this is what the standard or lawyer’s is now, manipulating and being beyond the law.

      The police apparently “deleted’ all Kim Dot Coms records apparently, therefore can’t supply the court order… this is our countries enforcers of the law… does it sound like it’s on the right track as an educated country?

      • Molly 6.1.1

        My son worked recently for a builder for eighteen months, where a friend was serving an apprenticeship. The quality of the builder, and their ability makes a huge difference to the quality of training of those apprentices they take on. The attendance of one day a week at a separate institution is a safeguard for all apprentices, that despite their employer they will be exposed to best practice and all aspects of their industry over their time.

        I think we are also feeling the impact of the changes to apprenticeships in the 80’s. Back then, we were more likely to have – for instance – builders that would build a house from foundation to roof. Now we have builders that specialise in foundations, then those who deal with framework, then roofing, then fitting and gibbing, then plastering. As a consequence, apprenticeships often are limited to specialised roles in building within their employment.

        Also, IIRC, trades could consolidate their polytech training in short courses that people would attend during their annual leave. So there was a choice between attending one day a week, or a three week course every year or so. That seems doable.

        If there was certainty that all employers that take on apprentices have:
        1. A quality standard and wide scope of experience to offer,
        2. An ability to teach best practice to their trainees,
        3. The time management skills to ensure their apprentices on on track for the period of their apprenticeship,
        then the need for attendance at a polytechnic to ensure consistency would be a moot point. But I don’t think we are there at present. It is much easier to identify and solve the need for quality institutional trade courses, that it is to identify, train and regulate individual employers to improve the quality of apprenticeships. We should be doing that for all our tertiary providers anyway, and this is a good place to start for immediate reward.

        Also, we had a couple of German journeyman stay with us for a couple of months, and the quality of their training seemed superb. But the value placed on that training was also one of quality standards, where we have a tendency to focus on future financial earnings. As we know, that can result in results that provide greater individual financial rewards but higher public costs.

        • saveNZ 6.1.1.1

          The leaky buildings was not caused by the builders. It was the government BRANZ that did it by kow towing to industry to make more profits and allowing untreated timber and unsuitable claddings. Nobody held to account there of course. The rate payers and home owners have mostly had to pay for the fiasco and it driven this idea of more bureaucrats in building, which clearly isn’t working and a joke because it was the bureaucrats that caused it!

          As for the current move away from builders that would build a house from foundation to roof to builders that specialise in small pieces … it’s not working. It takes too long with all the time missing with all the different trades to turn up and quality suffers. You just need one person to make a mistake on the subcontractors and it all comes tumbling down. It makes workers cheaper commodities but it creates bad workmanship and high prices.

          They try to do the same in IT and with the same results. Too many cheap commodity “specialists” who only know a couple of things within a complicated project does not work as “not seeing the ˌwood for the ˈtrees” approach is a disaster when you have complexity.

          • Molly 6.1.1.1.1

            … wasn’t talking about leaky buildings.

            The rest of your comment seems to reflect mine – just an alternate view on how to ensure quality training. I don’t think relying on the employers alone to deliver is going to ensure a universal quality of training for all apprentices.

            Until that assurance can be made, the attendance or addition of polytechnic adjunct courses seems the best way forward.

  7. Macro 7

    Taking the the single statistic of a 0.03% increase in first year enrolments at University in isolation, and completely out of context, is at best hugely unhelpful, and at worst falls into the category of lies, damned lies, and statistics.
    When we look at the demographic of New Zealand’s population it is clear that the number of young people now of University age is one of a reducing cohort. There are far less young people in the 18 – 20 age group today, than there were 4 years ago.
    http://newzealandiszl.wikia.com/wiki/File:Nzip13-population-pyramid.png *
    So naturally there will be less numbers seeking places in University.
    Then there are many other factors which influence a young persons decision to seek further education at a tertiary level. The availability of jobs, and apprenticeships being a major influence.
    I am firmly of the opinion that free eduction for the whole of a tertiary study is a major investment and while this tentative step is one baby step along the way, it is a start back to a society which is happy to invest in the future of its young people.

    * This population pyramid is for the NZ population in 2012. So you need to take the 10 – 14 year cohort to see the numbers in the 16 – 20 year group today (ie the cohort of University starting age) . Notice that this group is comparatively small compared to the group of 20 – 24 year olds in 2012.

  8. Cantabrian 8

    Baba Yaga – you are an old witch!

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