Low uptake on fees-free scheme, could be scaled back

In 2017 Labour campaigned on there being a number of crises that needed urgent attention after ‘nine years of neglect’. It was surprising that one of the first policies they piled money into was something that seemed less urgent than housing, homelessness, poverty, mental health – they rushed in a tertiary education free fees scheme so that it would be in place by the start of 2018.

It turns out that the uptake hasn’t been anywhere near as high as predicted, so the scheme won’t cost as much as was budgeted. But the Government also seems to be considering scaling back the scheme to divert  budgeted money to more urgent needs (the so-called crises remain largely unaddressed).

Stuff:  Low enrolments sees $200m clawed back from fees-free scheme

The Government is stripping nearly $200 million from its controversial fees-free policy, after the number of people taking up the offer of a year of free tertiary education was below expectations.

Although he denied disappointment with the policy, Finance Minister Grant Robertson appeared to leave the door open to cancelling an extension of the scheme to further years of free education in 2021.

At a speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce in Parliament on Tuesday, Robertson said that as part of the upcoming Budget, the Government had identified around $1 billion of the lowest priority initiatives to cancel.

As part of this, $197m allocated for a year of tertiary education was being redirected to changes being made in the vocational education reforms.

Of course if they don’t have to spend everything the budgeted for for fees-free that money will be able to be used elsewhere (if they don’t want to cut government expenditure).

But what is apparent here is that a scheme rushed through as a high priority in 2017 now seems to be regarded as ‘lowest priority’.

Robertson denied the move was an acknowledgement of problems with the policy. The policy assumed a significant uplift in enrolments, which had not materialised. Robertson put this down to the strong labour market which made job opportunities good.

“When you get a period of time when you have employment being very, very low, that traditionally coincides with lower enrolments, in particular in polytechs,” Robertson told reporters, adding that people still had the option of taking up the policy if they chose.

Robertson maintained that it still remained Labour Party policy to extend the scheme for a second and eventually a third year of free education, but appeared to open the door to that happening.

“We’ll take a look at the extensions nearer the time, but I still believe the principle of making sure that people can carry on with study at university or apprenticeships  or work place training is really, really important.”

The plan for a second year of free education did not take place until the next term of Government so there was “plenty of time between now and then to make that call”.

So Robertson certainly seems uncommitted to expanding the scheme as planned.

Robertson’s pre-budget speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce:  Wellbeing Budget to tackle long-term challenges

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11 Comments

  1. David

     /  15th May 2019

    Worst kind of middle class welfare and vote buying

    Reply
    • duperez

       /  15th May 2019

      Would be interesting to see the reaction if anyone says that at the club on Friday night about the age for super!😊

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  15th May 2019

      Worst kind of vote buying ? Compared to Nationals proposed ‘extra day in hospital after child birth’

      Reply
      • David

         /  15th May 2019

        Many mothers would benefit from an extra day, particularly first time mums rather than say further subsidizing some of the highest earners in the country. Seems like a more caring thing to do given thats what Ardern campaigned on.
        Guess you care more about the best off in society.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  15th May 2019

          Highest earners ? The Student scheme starts at level 3 which includes apprentices ( they get 2 years), horticulture, agriculture forestry hairdressing etc, business , computer, and even some advanced warehouse and truck driving courses are at that level.
          eg for hawkes bay EIT
          https://www.eit.ac.nz/subject-areas/

          Maybe the clue is ‘students’ and not just bachelors degrees which are at level 5-7

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  15th May 2019

            To most people, I hope, ‘student’ still implies someone who’s an academic and not a truck driver or warehouseman.

            It would never occur to me to call someone who is not going to do something academic a student, any more than I’d call a student an apprentice.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  15th May 2019

              Welcome to the real world Kitty. It clearly covers lower level courses below academic subjects…including advanced truck drivers!
              Never rely on kiwiblog for information, he’s well known to twist the truth to suit his ’employers’

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  15th May 2019

              I have no idea what kiwiblog does, I have never looked at it or him or whatever it is. I’ve heard the name but that’s about it. Nor do I waste time on whaleoil.

              One can’t call truckdrivers students, it’s an insult to real students.

  2. NOEL

     /  15th May 2019

    Student a person who is studying at a university or other place of higher education.
    “a student of sociology”

    Academic a teacher or scholar in a university or other institute of higher education.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  15th May 2019

      Student… Is any one studying…could be primary school. So what is your point….that people who study at level 3 are all high income earners.?

      Reply

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