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Government sacrificing students for cash

The half-yearly economic and fiscal update from Treasury (released last month) painted a bleak picture for tertiary education.

The key data was in the Core Crown Expenses for Tertiary Education). What it showed was that the government spent nearly $50 million less on tuition in 2012 (a cut of 2%) despite having the equivalent of 10,000 more full-time students than it had in the previous year.

Overall, tertiary funding fell by three quarters of a billion dollars (20%) since this government’s first budget was issued in 2009. That does not include adjustments for inflation. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 6.9% during the same period.

The Treasury has forecast that equivalent full-time student numbers would remain close to their record high until 2017.

However, it also forecast that government spending on tertiary education would remain at least $400 million less than it was in 2009, over the next five years.

The government seems to be happy to spend less on today’s 13-year-olds than it spends on today’s 22-year-olds.

Allowance slashed

The Treasury has also forecast that the government will cut spending to student allowances by over $150 million over the next five years. This means students will be forced to take larger student loans to pay for their cost of living.

Therefore, the only new tertiary education spending of any real value would be on student debt that the government hopes to claim back off our future students.

Finance Minister Bill English said that the government was on track.

“This programme is helping New Zealanders and their families to get ahead, encouraging personal responsibility and rewarding people for hard work and enterprise,” he said.

The government is currently spending about a quarter of a billion per year more on unemployment than it did in 2009 because there are no jobs for people who want to work. People who want skills and education to find a job will find it harder to get an allowance to study.

Sandra Grey was National President of the Tertiary Education Union based in Wellington.

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