Zero tertiary fees 15% claim, 0.3% result

The incoming Government rushed through one of Labour’s key policies to cut fees completely for first year tertiary students. This raised eyebrows, as it seemed to be trying to fix a problem that didn’t really exists while poverty, housing, health and other ‘crises’ had to wait for the budget, or are still waiting for money to be made available.

And it has failed in one respect – Minister or Education predicted a 15% increase in tertiary enrolments but the initial response has been just 0.3%.

Labour education policy: Making tertiary education and training affordable for all

Reversing the current Government’s short-sighted decision to exclude post-graduate students from student allowances will mean more talented people can afford to go on to attain the very high skill levels New Zealand needs to lead our innovation.

Together, these initiatives will help reverse the worrying decline in tertiary participation seen under the current Government, so that we can better equip the younger generation for the jobs of the future.

Last November: Cabinet approves fast-track of free tertiary study and student allowance boost

Cabinet have approved the fast-tracking of Labour’s tertiary education policy in order to make a year of study fee-free by 2018. The new Government also intends to boost all student allowances and student loan living costs by $50 a week in time for the start of the year.

“Officials are working on the details of how these policies will be implemented and to determine who will be eligible to benefit from them, and we are on track for 2018,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

Hipkins told Stuff an interim measure would be put in place to deal with study next year before a more robust solution was worked out for the full rollout.

Labour’s pre-election costings, which were verified by BERL, put the cost of the policy at $340m per year, along with $270m per year for the boosts to student support.

Hipkins expects a 15 per cent increase in the number of people studying thanks to the scheme.

But RNZ reports Zero fees: ‘That hypothetical student doesn’t exist’

Official figures show student numbers increased just 0.3 percent this year, which the organisation representing New Zealand’s universities says shows the zero fees policy is not working.

Universities New Zealand, which represents eight universities, said official figures from the Tertiary Education Commission showed their student numbers by end of April 2018 were 0.3 percent higher than at same time in 2017. The increase figure covered all domestic tertiary enrolments.

Universities New Zealand chairperson Stuart McCutcheon said a single year without fees would have no impact on students’ decisions to enrol.

However, Education Ministry forecasts showed university enrolments had been expected to fall slightly this year.

So a prediction of a slight decrease, but a prediction margin of error level of increase.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said enrolments in all tertiary courses above the level of foundation education appeared to have stabilised in 2018 after five years of decline.

“It is pleasing that the drop in enrolment EFTS appears to have flattened out, particularly at a time when there is a strong employment market, which is forecast to get even stronger over the next couple of years,” he said.

That’s a long way from his predictions last year.

So far this looks like being a very expensive failure. It was rushed in at the end of last year so may not have been in time to make much difference this year.

At least many first year students will have more financial assistance and smaller student loans


  1. Blazer

     /  June 26, 2018

    how can investing in tertiary students be a failure,given a number in positions of power had a free education,anyway.

    • Gerrit

       /  June 26, 2018

      Depends on the terms of reference you set…to measure success.

      If the measure was to increase tertiary education participation…it is a failure.

      If the measure was to give the countries up and coming leaders a free year at university…the results can only be measured over the next ten or so years to see who comes forward.

    • David

       /  June 26, 2018

      Blazer have you ever paid tax from something that wasn’t taxpayer funded to start with. Even you must see the utter waste of 300 million.

      • Blazer

         /  June 26, 2018

        helping young students embarking on a career path financially,is hardly wasted.
        Do you want more tax breaks for the rich?

        • Agree blazer but it is easier to enroll for a course than get WINZ benefits, I know of 2 students who are only “students of convenience” as it was too hard to get food on the table via WINZ…. our financial incentives shouldnt be on first year study, but on completion,

        • Define…rich.

    • NOEL

       /  June 26, 2018

      It’s the way the “free” part was aligned.
      Surely the best for everyone would have it on the last period of study not the first.

      • Blazer

         /  June 26, 2018

        probably a better idea there NOEL.

      • PDB

         /  June 26, 2018

        That wasn’t the point though was it? It was simply a way of buying votes for Labour. In order for it to capture as many possible students (including the ones going along for a year off) they had to make it for the first year. It’s importance was such that it was rushed through leaving little money to buy off public servants/unions, fund such things as their winter energy payment from day one or pay for the school fees they promised.

        If National were smart they’d go into the next election promising to reward serious students with their final year being fully taxpayer funded & removing the first year payment.

  2. PartisanZ

     /  June 26, 2018

    Damn that neoliberal “full employment” huh?

    With unemployment having settled at the ideal 4% – required to keep wages relatively low – people who might have gone on to higher education now have the choice of working instead, and the pressure to do so is great … like rent for instance … cost of living … and apprenticeships are apparently on the rise as a result … Good stuff!

    Hard fought pay increases only make working more attractive than trying to live off student allowance and probably still accumulating student debt despite free fees …

    We’ve reached a peculiar situation where, to grossly exaggerate for effect, “fortune favours the dumb” …

    “Jobs of the future”?

  3. Grimm

     /  June 26, 2018

    It would have been a much more expensive failure if the number was 15%.

    • PartisanZ

       /  June 26, 2018

      Excellent ‘turn of phrase’ Grimm, but that’s all … the word “failure” is misused …

      It would have been a much more expensive POLICY if the number was 15%.

      • PDB

         /  June 26, 2018

        A failure regardless – if any year was to be ‘free’ then the last year of study should have been. Giving more taxpayer money to students who then turn around and drop out after the first year is not good policy.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  June 26, 2018

        No it wouldn’t. It would only be marginally (15%) more expensive. It is already an expensive failure.

  4. unitedtribes2

     /  June 26, 2018

    Weren’t we led to believe that the massive increase of students was putting pressure on the student rental accommodation?