Invercargill has had fee-free tertiary eduction for years. Labour’s fee-free policy would sabotage the advantage that’s given the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) and seriously damage the city.
Mayor Tim Shadbolt wrote an open letter to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern explaining that:
. . . I hope and pray that if you succeed in your attempt to become Prime Minister of New Zealand in the forthcoming elections you will not use your power to crush Invercargill.
My job is to protect the interests of our city.
In 1993 when I was first elected as Invercargill’s Mayor, we were the fastest declining city in New Zealand or Australia.
Then thanks to Penny Simmonds, her senior staff and board members, the Southern Institute of Technology introduced a brilliant Zero Fee Scheme.
This meant for example if you graduated as a nurse, you saved $15,000.
As a result we attracted students from all over New Zealand and our student roll increased from 1400 students to almost 3600 students.
By the 2013 census our population had increased by 2.7 per cent.
The Zero Fee Scheme cost $7.25 million to establish and promote and was courageously supported by the Invercargill City Council, our two community trusts, local businesses and SIT itself.
Now the Labour Party policy is to introduce a Zero Fee type scheme throughout New Zealand that will be completely funded by the state.
Labour’s plans will totally undermine Invercargill’s marketing edge and our innovative point of difference. . .
SIT’s fee-free policy has made a measurable difference to the city, boosting its population, lowering the average age and creating jobs.
Labour’s policy would undermine SIT and the resulting loss in student numbers would have a seriously detrimental social and financial impact on the city.
Invercargill is working on a scheme to provide rent free accommodation for tertiary students. It’s asking Labour to help fund that since it already has fee-free tertiary education.
It would be far better to leave students to pay the small proportion of fees they do at the moment, unless they are at SIT, let Invercargill use its own resources to pursue its free accommodation policy and spend taxpayers money where the need is greater.
That’s not people who will on average earn around more than $1.6 million than those without tertiary qualifications.
Free courses for tertiary students sounds great, but nothing is free. It would be a massive transfer of tax money from working people to produce lawyers, accountants, vets etc, who will charge those same working people hundreds of dollars an hour for their professional services.
And of course these students who will be tempted to vote Labour for this bribe, will be paying for the education of the next students, for the rest of their working lives if it is introduced.
The best use of taxpayers’ funds isn’t more help for people who will on average earn around more than $1.6 million than those without tertiary qualifications.
The real need in education is help for those who struggle with basic numeracy and literacy.