NZ student support most generous in OECD


The government is committed to spending in priority areas. Doing that without an overall increase in spending means a reprioritising of some funds.

One of these is support for students:

The Government remains committed to keeping  student loans interest free but we are also determined to reduce the  cost of the overall loan scheme to taxpayers.

The scheme is very large, and not so long ago the Government was effectively writing off 49 cents of every dollar that was lent.

With previous changes we’ve made, we’ve so far managed to bring that down to 45 cents.

And we intend to get it closer to 40 cents in the future by continuing to  chase overseas borrowers and through the faster repayment of loans once  people have finished their study.

As in previous Budgets, some of  the savings we make will be reinvested in improving teaching and  research within our universities and other tertiary institutions for the next generation of students.

A write off of nearly 50% on loans is unsustainable. It is also unfair to graduates who do repay their loans, to taxpayers who pay the cost and to others whose need of public support is greater.

Chasing overseas defaulters and expecting faster repayments is sensible and moderate, though the New Zealand University Students Association doesn’t think so:

“Increasing the repayment rate is a tax increase for the 500,000 New Zealanders who have student loans. Student loan repayments are a tax, since they are collected by IRD, straight out of your pay, just the same as PAYE. It’s outrageous that graduates should have to pay higher taxes to pay for a budget short-fall which has been caused by the tax-cuts that the National government gave to high income earners,” said Pete Hodkinson, president of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations.

Good grief – if that’s the standard of logic and economic understanding of students, the very generous taxpayer support for students is being wasted.

And generous it is – the PM gave the numbers at the Mainland Conference on Sunday and if memory serves me correctly, about 40% of tertiary funding goes in student support, more than twice that in Australia.

What NZUSA doesn’t appear to understand is the money students borrow without interest is money the government has borrowed – with interest. The more that is borrowed, the more that will have to be repaid – with interest, from tax.

NZUSA would be the first to complain if the government didn’t invest enough in teaching and research.

If there is no increase in overall spending, any increase in one area must come from savings in another and expecting graduates to repay their loans a little faster is fair and reasonable.

Uni’s not supposed to be easy


NZUSA is criticising changes made by NZQA which will make it a little more difficult for people to gain entry to university.

The NZQA’s deputy chief executive (qualifications), Bali Haque, said the changes were not designed to restrict student entry to university, but to ensure the standard was set at an appropriate level for entry in 2015.

“The new requirement, while not a radical change, does raise the bar for university entrance.”

He believed the changes, which stemmed from a periodic review last year, would have a “motivational effect and lift achievement”.

However, a spokesman for the NZ Union of Students’ Associations, Max Hardy, said the requirements followed an “erosion of access to tertiary education” over the past few years and would shut even more people out.

“We are very concerned that students, as a result of this change, who could have done very well at university are being shut out.”

It is possible that some people who didn’t do well at school will, with a little more maturity and focus, succeed at university.

But what’s the point of lowering the entry bar only to have students who haven’t got the required academic ability waste money and time failing?

University isn’t supposed to be easy and getting there shouldn’t be either unless participation rather than success is the aim.

If success in tertiary study is the goal, as it should be, then the requirement for entry should be related to the standard required to succeed once you’re there.

Who is NZUSA working for in opposing this – it ‘s members or its own interests? While student union membership is compulsory anything which increases participation works in NZUSA’s favour but not necessarily in the interests of its members.

What’s fairer than free choice?


NZUSA is seeking a fairer alternative to the Voluntary Student Membership bill which is grinding its way very, very slowly through parliament.

But what’s fairer than free choice which is all that VSM aims to provide?


Budget headlines


We spent, taxed, borrowed too much – Labour

PSA accepts need for fiscal rectitude

CTU gives tick to savings, investment & exports

EPMU welcomes jobs forecast

Hawarira says thanks

Budget a bit tough: Act

Greens applaud focus on building economy

Students satisfied – NZUSA

We’re grateful – social service agencies

Flying pigs spotted

Met Service forecasts low temperatures in Hell

VSM will enable student associations to prove their worth


The news that a select committee has recommended that student associations be voluntary has not surprisingly been greeted with dismay by association members.

“They have not listened to the voice of students. Overwhelmingly, students did not want it,” Otago Polytechnic Students Association (OPSA) Meegan Cloughley said.

Otago University Students Association (OUSA) Harriet Geoghegan said for the opposition to changes “to be ignored is quite astounding”. . .

. . .  New Zealand University Students’ Association co-president David Do said evidence in Australia and New Zealand showed the Bill would destroy student representation and welfare provision, and put student-owned services such as Student Job Search at risk.

Student life, events such as Orientation, clubs, and sports would be at risk, and institutions and Government would face extra new costs, he said.

The student association I know most about is OUSA which does provide a lot of services for its members. It’s also one of the most financially sound and among its assets is the UBS, one of the country’s best bookshops.

If that or any other assets OUSA owns and services it provides are under threat from voluntary membership the association needs to ask if it really give students the benefits, and value for money, it says it does.

If students overwhelmingly don’t want voluntary membership it should bring little change because they’ll all sign up anyway. If they don’t, the associations will have to earn the support which they now get through compulsion.

Instead of seeing VSM as a threat to their viability, student associations should regard it as an opportunity to prove their worth.

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