The article on Stuff last week, which implied we all spend our course related costs on nights out in town and flights to Fiji, was a useful yet unfortunate start to a long overdue discussion of the reality of the financial pressures faced by students today.
The story was rather ridiculous—a student journo who had clearly just asked a few of his friends for stories of how they’d spent $1k to make a scandalous “click bait” story. Other journalists were outraged, and the commenters on Stuff were surprisingly quick to ridicule the site and defend students.
While I’m sure we all know of people who have blown the $1000 on things not strictly “course related”, the reality is that for every student the true course related costs are far higher than $1000—yet the figure hasn’t changed since it was introduced in 1993.
However, despite these true costs of study, the even higher costs of living in Wellington means that 42 per cent of students put their $1000 towards bond and rent in advance. Even after receiving student loan living costs or an allowance and claiming course related costs, the unmet real costs of a year spent studying can easily reach more than $10,000.
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The sobering fact is that the true cost of even the cheapest Bachelor’s degree (a three-year BA) can easily reach $80–90k. While a bunch of it goes into private hands in the form of rent, power and food, a significant portion of this goes into the University’s coffers via ever increasing fees—funded from our ever increasing student debt.
The good news is our degrees will mean we’re likely to earn more than the average salary, and the knowledge and skills we learn provide an intangibly large public benefit to New Zealand and the world. The unfortunate part is we’ll spend the first portion of our graduate lives paying the highest effective tax rate to pay off our loans and will continually be priced out of the property market.
While it’s clear that the Government needs to increase the support for students and tertiary education in general, the University also has a part to play in how it sets its fees. This week you have a chance to influence that. On Wednesday at 5pm in SU309/310, we’re holding a “Rant with Grant” forum on fees in the lead up to 2016 fee setting. The Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, and a bunch of the uni’s finance staff will be there, so it’s your chance to grill them on how they spend your money.