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October 2, 2017 | by  | in VUWSA |
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Presidential Address

Last week VUW voted to raise your fees by 2% for 2018.

With student debt surpassing $15 billion last year, and the average graduate leaving university with a loan the size of a house deposit, I’m sure this isn’t music to your ears.

As the Vice-Chancellor will say, and he is right, 2% is obviously not a radical increase once inflation and wage rises are considered. These are now increasing at a faster rate, and the university must absorb those extra costs.

However, the pain felt by annual fee increases is no less severe, even if it is “out of the hands” of the university.

Each year serves as a reminder that there is no end in sight to the growing debt mountain that young people are carrying on their backs as they leave tertiary education and head into an increasingly uncertain workforce.

While we are stuck with this system, what can we do better as a university community to try and embrace the notion of partnership, and reduce the feelings of animosity and powerlessness that students invariably feel with annual increases?

A start would be to involve students early on in budget setting, to have the discussions about fees in March, rather than in September when the budget is pretty much a done deal.

This would open the space for a conversation about where students would like their fees to go. Recorded lectures? More contact time with lecturers/tutors? Improving online tools such as Blackboard and MyVic?

The Student Services Levy was also voted upon, which will go up 3.5% next year. This increase was bigger than usual, to cover a deficit that this ring-fenced levy was carrying, but nonetheless the collaborative process taken to determine annual increases of this fee has allowed genuine student input over a number of years.

Until we can get genuine change to the tertiary funding model, making sure there is student partnership when it comes to spending fees is essential, and we need look no further than how this is already done with the Student Levy.

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