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Budget Week: Another Black Budget for Students
Thursday this week is one of the most exciting days on any politico’s calendar. It’s budget day.
While political nerds like me will delight in rummaging through the detail for hours on end looking at where the government has increased or decreased spending, analyse the goodies, or lack of, Bill English has decided to spread around this year and how they manage to paint over a lack of the fabled surplus – for most students the budget will be rather bleak.
All the indications are that it will be another black budget for the tertiary sector. We’re predicting yet another year of frozen funding for universities and no change to the meager student support initiatives. It’s likely that Joyce will continue to tweak around the edges with continual cuts in some areas and some over hyped increases in others. This has been the trend since the last Labour government.
The cumulative effects of these tweaks over the last six and a bit years are quite substantive. Cuts to post grad allowances, no increase in student allowance parental income caps, lifetime limits on loans and virtually no increase in core government funding for universities, are just some of the key ones – if you’re interested there’s a buzzfeed on it which I think Young Labour put together.
Put together they mean that the opportunities that tertiary education gives us are becoming increasingly harder to obtain for large parts of New Zealand’s population who simply can’t afford to pay for ever-increasing fees.
The dream of free tertiary education is becoming more distant by the day. But it’s not as an absurd aspiration as some may portray. Other leading western economies have shown that it is possible to extend the human right to free education to the tertiary level. Germany has recently done just that. Holland, where my family comes from, also offers virtually free education. As I have a Dutch passport, I could go and complete a post grad degree there and not pay a cent.
But we shouldn’t have to fly halfway around the world to do that. New Zealand needs to rethink its funding model for the tertiary sector and follow the lead of our European friends in enabling this dream.
Universities aren’t just degree factories adding professional benefits that allow graduates to have a comparative advantage in the economy. They play a crucial role in our societies as the critic and conscience and breeding ground for intellectual capital. Joyce needs to recognise this.