Fees-free Does Nothing To Lift Participation From Low-income Groups

Published: Thu 22 Feb 2024 09:49 AM
“While questioning the Tertiary Education Commission in this week’s Parliament’s Education and Workforce Committee, I was told there is ‘no discernible evidence’ the previous Government’s fees-free scheme has improved participation from low socio-economic groups,” says ACT Tertiary Education and Skills spokesperson Dr Parmjeet Parmar.
“The Commission also confirmed that the scheme had no impact on overall tertiary education completion rates.
“In short, Labour’s programme has cost taxpayers more than $340 million a year for no real public benefit. That’s a colossal waste of money.
“Of course, there is a personal benefit for the students who take up the scheme. But university students in particular are more likely to end up on higher incomes, so the result is working New Zealanders pay tax for the benefit of the middle and upper class.
“ACT has proposed scrapping the fees-free scheme entirely. What we achieved in our coalition agreement with National was a commitment to replace first year fees-free with final year fees-free, a move that will improve incentives to complete courses and reduce costs for taxpayers.”
The relevant section of the committee can be found here, where Commission CEO Tim Fowler tells Dr Parmar: There is no discernible evidence that fees-free increased the number of people who went into tertiary education, and no discernible evidence that it changed the distribution of what would have been the decile… the number of people going from deciles at all.

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