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February 26, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Fees Free Faces Criticism

Following her election victory in 2017, Jacinda Ardern has introduced a year of free tertiary education for students entering first time study. The fees-free policy includes “softer penalties” for students who are caught lying on their statutory declarations.

Labour’s 2017 Education Manifesto highlights the importance of “adapting the education system to the needs of the modern world”, by providing free education and lessening penalties for those who feel the need to lie in order to get it.

In an interview with Salient, Grant Guilford, Victoria University’s Vice Chancellor, said that applications for study in NZ universities has not changed significantly since the policy has been implemented. Guilford believes that the combination of interest free student loans  and student allowances have already made tertiary education accessible to the majority of NZers.

Paul Goldsmith, the National Party spokesperson for Tertiary Education Skills and Employment, has spoken out in opposition to the policy, criticising the Government for “making it easy for people to abuse fees-free”. However, school leavers are required to sign a statutory declaration stating they have met the fees free criteria, and anyone who lied would face up to three years in prison.

Statistics show that participation in further education has dropped significantly in recent years, the latest available data showing a drop from 40% in 2010 to 35% in 2015. An inability to afford education and basic living costs accounts for 65% of young people who do not go into further education.

Geared toward increasing the accessibility of tertiary education, Labour’s policy hopes to see this system changed so that declarations would not require a witness, with a maximum penalty of $5000 for anyone who is caught lying on their declaration.

It is estimated that by 2020 two thirds of all jobs will require higher education. Labour’s fees-free policy aims to upskill the population, with a long-term goal of improving New Zealand’s economy. The policy aims to create a population more able to contribute to an ever changing economy, by mitigating the effects of socio-economic disparity.

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