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Last week’s budget was a bit of a bleak one for us students.
The Government again didn’t increase core university funding—just as it hasn’t since 2009. This means that funding for the tertiary sector has effectively decreased by $1 billion relative to 2009 levels.
As students, this means that our fees get higher each year as universities are forced to rely more on raising them just to keep up with the costs of the status quo. Alongside an announcement of no new core uni funding, Minister Joyce also indicated that he is planning on reducing the maximum cap of 4% fee rises to 3% from next year.
It’s unclear how he thinks universities will be able to maintain their budgets with no new government funding, given that the costs of running institutions rises faster than annual inflation.
Joyce trumpeted an extra $113 million for a few of his pet projects like increasing the numbers of engineering and science students. While this could be seen as a win for BSc students like me, this type of government intervention into the tertiary sector will mean that the freedom of academics to design and teach courses of wider societal value will be impeded by a further drive to grab the pitiful crumbs of government funding.
Tertiary education in New Zealand needs serious funding not pet projects.
The budget also made no changes to student support measures. Costs of living are continuing to rise while the government reduces the availability of student allowances.
While our course related costs increase each year, the amount we’re able to loan to cover them haven’t changed since I was born in 1993.
The payback rate on our loans means graduates pay the highest effective tax rate while our friends over the ditch have a wonderfully progressive repayment rate that doesn’t kick in until you earn more than $53k.
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 postgrad degree there and not pay a cent.
We need to seriously rethink how we fund universities and student support. Access to tertiary education is crucial and the Government needs to adequately provide for it in their balance sheets.