The Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) welcomes moves by the Government to reduce the level of fee increases institutions can charge students; but believe no real, strategic progress has been made to resolving issues around student debt and support.
The proposed three percent to two percent decrease that tertiary institutions can raise fees by is a positive step in the right direction from Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce. However, change is long overdue after fees have spiralled out of control over the last twenty years; and largely contributed to the current $15 billion student debt, which this budget has ignored.
‘Students won’t see any day-to-day change to their living situation as a result of this budget. The government has tinkered around the edges in trying to slow the ballooning student debt, and no real changes have been made,’ says VUWSA President Jonathan Gee.
Additionally, spending towards student allowances has been cut, furthering the downward trend of spending towards allowances in recent years from $620 million in 2011, to a forecast of just $496 in 2016. The number of student allowance recipients has fallen by almost a quarter since 2010 due to a significant Government cuts to postgraduate and middle-income allowance eligibility.
An average increase of less than a dollar per year in allowance from $170.80 in April 2011 to $175.10 fails to cover even the cost of rent for the majority of students in Wellington or Auckland, and is unresponsive to the rising cost of living.
The $86.1 million increase towards subsidising tuition fees for science and technology subjects is a positive step from the Government, however should be further extended to support all academic fields. A further investment of $1.6 million towards the Engineering to Employment fund is an important step to helping engineering graduates find employment.
In regards to accommodation conditions, the Government also announced $18 million to extend Warm up New Zealand to rental housing. ‘This announcement is a start, but it remains to be seen whether cash-strapped students will see the impact of this.’ says Gee.