Government’s inflated positivity over increase in university fees

Government’s inflated positivity over increase in university fees

Otago university has argued that the increase in fees is necessary because it will help control spiraling costs. In October last year, Otago chief financial officer Sharon van Turnhout said the university was under “significant financial pressure” and “providing an acceptable level of funding for the academic divisions…will be difficult in 2016.” 

A spokesperson for Steven Joyce, the Minister of Tertiary Education, said the increase in the number of full time students as well as the number of graduates being 20 percent higher than 2008 means the increase shows that “the costs of study are not placing tertiary study out of reach for students”. However, OUSA President Laura Harris said she did not believe Mr Joyce’s reasoning was “indicative of [university] still being affordable”, rather it was “indicative of it being very necessary” to have a university qualification in today’s workforce. 

Joyce’s spokesperson went on to state that students only pay about 30 percent of the fees, while the taxpayer pays 70 percent and students are, on average, paying off loans through wages “in about six years, if they remain in the country following graduation.” 

Labour leader Andrew Little fiercely attacked Mr Joyce’s comments. “A free education for all was once part of the ‘Kiwi Dream’, along with the ability to buy your own home and a health system that was the envy of the world.” He also said these actions by the current government are “putting more of the burden on taxpayers.” 

Nevertheless, the increase in fees this year is lesser than last year. In March 2015, the CPI showed that fees increased by 3.8 percent over that quarter. This is likely due to a change in government policy. Last year, the government put further limits on the percentage that universities can increase their fees by per year, now capping the increase at three percent instead of four percent. 

Many of us don’t think about the costs of life at university, piling up our loan by a few grand every year and then hiding the bill as soon as it arrives in the post. But still, we need to pay attention to these rising costs – they’re going to chew on our salaries or wages for a while after we finish at Otago. 

This article first appeared in Issue 9, 2016.
Posted 10:45am Sunday 1st May 2016 by Tom Kitchin.