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Lincoln University has become the first tertiary institution in New Zealand to offer set program fees for domestic students.
A set-program fee offers students the same annual tuition costs for the duration of their degree, without any fee increases year-by-year.
After introducing the model for international students in 2014, the decision was made to give domestic students the same financial security.
When Radio New Zealand questioned the financial repercussions of the move, Lincoln’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Jeremy Baker said “we believe we should be able to tell people what the price of their education [will be] up front”.
“It’s a lot more valuable for us to have an additional student than to try and add a couple of hundred dollars here or there to each existing student,” Baker said.
Students who receive high enough grades and complete their qualifications within the normal time frame will benefit from the set costs. Jeremy insisted that these expectations would still allow for students to make up papers in summer school and conceded “you don’t have to be perfect but you do have to be pretty good.” Whereas students who fail to pass courses and/or complete them in time will not receive the same privilege.
Lincoln University Students’ Association President Kahlia Fryer has publically supported the move. “The proposals for these changes were strongly received by students and we are pleased with any approach that stretches the student dollar further and provides greater financial security for students,” Fryer said.
When asked if Victoria would also be considering similar fee arrangements, the University told Salient that it has “no plans to offer fee guarantees”. The University’s Chief Operating Officer Andrew Simpson admitted that “ideally, we would like to be able to offer more certainty to both domestic and international students” but conceded that “a number of factors make this difficult.”
Simpson cited a lack of certainty surrounding government funding and the University’s financial commitments as the reasoning behind Vic’s fee-setting. He insisted that “in the current environment, tuition fees are the only mechanism available to us to ensure the quality of our programmes is maintained.”
VUWSA President Rick Zwaan told Salient that VUWSA was interested in exploring similar approaches to fee setting at Vic as “having certainty over the full cost of your degree makes sense and may, in some cases, make it cheaper for students than perpetual annual four per cent increases in fees.”
However, Zwaan said any adjustment would need to be made carefully “to ensure the University doesn’t use it as a way to outrageously increase fees and the burden of debt on students.”