Free education costly


Otago University students were outraged at proposed fee increases but the University Council followed what Student Association president Simon Wilson described as a familiar dance.

“Staff recommend the maximum increases allowed by the Government, students recommend a zero increase, and the council agrees with the staff recommendation.”

The ODT editorialises that years of  free university education  go further into the past with each fee rise.

New Zealand has evolved a mixed funding system where the State still pays about 65% of the tuition costs, with fees making up most of the rest.

As long as fees do not become too prohibitive, they have the positive effects of encouraging students to focus on their courses, teachers to be more accountable and universities to be more relevant.

Students are likely to better appreciate something for which they pay, and waste is less likely. Thus, a return to those bygone years would not be wise even if it was possible.

I was one of the students who benefitted from the “free” education of the past.

But of course it wasn’t free. Although I wasn’t paying fees taxpayers were, some as much as 66% of their earnings.

Students and their politicians have put a lot of energy into trying to reduce the cost of studying but it’s a war that can’t be won. There’s a limited amount of taxpayer money available for tertiary education, the more that goes into reducing the costs for students with policies such as interest-free loans, the less there is for the universities which then have to increase fees which then increases costs for students . . .

Most students are at university for three or four years but pay tax for the rest of their lives.

They’d be better off paying a bit more while studying and a lot less in tax when they graduate than paying a little less now and a lot more through their taxes for the students of the future.

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