Tertiary education fast becoming 'out of reach for many'

Tertiary education is fast becoming out of reach for many, says Andrew Little. Photo / iStock
Tertiary education is fast becoming out of reach for many, says Andrew Little. Photo / iStock

The Government has hit back at claims the cost of tertiary education has soared seven times faster than the rate of inflation, saying the growing number of graduates shows the cost is not placing study out of reach for students.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures released this week show the cost of tertiary and other post-secondary education rose 2.9 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Inflation over the same period was 0.4 per cent.

Primary and secondary education rose by 3.7 per cent, the same data shows.

A spokeswoman for Steven Joyce, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, said the numbers of students graduating was more than 20 per cent higher than it was in 2008, and the number studying fulltime was significantly higher as well.

"That shows that the costs of study are not placing tertiary study out of reach for students."

The spokeswoman said the Government had lowered the maximum annual fee increase universities can charge since it had been in office. It is now capped at 3 per cent.

"Taxpayers pay on average about 70 per cent of the cost of tuition, student fees pay the other 30 per cent," the spokeswoman said.

"Most students borrow interest-free through the student loan scheme to pay for the fees. On average students are paying off these loans through their wages in about six years if they remain in the country following graduation."

The student contribution acknowledged the large financial benefit students received in terms of higher wages once they have completed their study, the spokeswoman said.

Graduates earn more than 40 per cent in excess of the median wage within five years after study, and that benefit continued through their working lives.

The cost of tertiary education has soared seven times faster than the rate of inflation, new data reveals.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures released this week show the cost of tertiary and other post-secondary education rose 2.9 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Inflation over the same period was 0.4 per cent.

Primary and secondary education rose by 3.7 per cent, the same data shows.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the figures showed tertiary education was fast becoming "out of the reach of many".

"Rising costs make post-school education less obtainable for low income families and locks families into generations of poverty," Mr Little said.

"It is crucial that all New Zealanders have the ability to study to the levels they aspire to. We must also ensure that young New Zealanders have the skills they need for the workplace today and into the future.

"A more educated workforce creates a stronger economy, and that's good for everyone."

Parents were bearing the brunt of the costs, he said, being forced to fork out the cash for their child's education, across all sectors from primary to tertiary.

"This means parents are forking out more and more in donations and fees while at the same time Government funding to schools per student is falling," he said.

"The National Government has put education out of the reach of many. A free education for all was once part of the 'Kiwi Dream', along with the ability to buy your own home and a health system that was the envy of the world. These things are slipping away under the National Government which is putting more of the burden on taxpayers."

Labour has vowed to provide three years free post-school study or training for every New Zealander if elected into Government.

- NZ Herald

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