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March 1, 2008 | by  | in Online Only |
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Capped fees? Pull the other one

In her opening speech to Parliament this year, Helen Clark said: “For the past 8 years, our top priority has been to improve both living standards and the services that our families, young and old, need[…] It has certainly helped to have interest-free loans and capped fees for tertiary students to make education more affordable.”

Clark claims that Labour has “capped” our fees. However, the fee maxima scheme does not set a total cap on fees; it merely caps their annual rate of increase to five per cent (with some exceptions to allow higher raises). This is significantly higher than the current rate of inflation (3.2 per cent) . There more I have thought about Clark’s statement, the more I have become convinced that, so long as universities can and do raise our fees faster than inflation, it is a straight-out lie to say that fees are “capped.” Fees are not capped – their increase is capped, but since it is capped beyond inflation fees still become more and more unaffordable each year.

It’s hard to believe that Labour have any real plan to ensure tertiary education is affordable (at least for those who are capable of completing it) if she’s prepared to make such blatantly false statements.

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

Comments (2)

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  1. Stephen Whittington says:

    You argue that because fees can be increased up to 5% and inflation is set at around 1-3% (just over at the moment, in violation of the target band), that fees are “becom[ing] more and more unaffordable each year.” This is not an inference than can logically drawn.

    Affordability is not merely a function of cost – but of incoming earnings in the present and future (see Milton Friedman’s permanent income theory in regards to future income streams). The ‘real cost’ may be increased, but if wages are increasing faster than the real cost, then affordability is greater.

    Why do you think tertiary education should be publicly funded?

  2. I won’t argue that university education should be wholly state-funded.
    We benefit from our education, thus it is only fair that we help fund it.

    But
    – studying properly, in the sense of conducting fruitful research, is a full-time occupation, so what students contribute monetarily has to be earned over vacations, and
    – many of the brightest students are not endowed with wealth, and since their education benefits the wider community, it makes sense to help make their education affordable.

    Expecting the state to provide free education is expecting too much – the state has to manage funds for healthcare, justice and other shit as well. But expecting affordable education (for those intellectually capable of justifying it) is both fair and beneficial.

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