Yesterday’s discussion about tertiary debt focused heavily on the stereotypical law, medicine or business students, forgetting at times that there are many thousands of student studying hairdressing, plumbing, nursing and other skills or trades. (And let’s not forget that there is no such thing as stereotypical law, medicine or business student who can easily pay back their debt.) Just receiving a tertiary education does not guarantee wealth later in life.
It is quite possible to be wealthy without having studied at a tertiary institute, or poor with numerous years of study – but still contributing importantly and valuably to your community.
If people really believe that education is a private good then surely those who invest in it should pay for it once they get the financial return – i.e. once the higher wages eventuate (otherwise known as progressive taxation).
On the other hand, if it is a public good, and our country is better off having qualified plumbers, nurses, and lawyers going about their business then the only limits we should be placing in front of people wanting to pursue those professions should be limits based on academic ability rather than the depth of their pockets, their gender, age or ethnicity.
We’ve had nearly two decades of student debt now. Student support was one of the many hospital passes that the Labour Alliance Government received from National in 1999. But since then Labour’s record has hardly be inspiring. It knew that debt was a problem, so it stuck a ‘no interest’ band aid on it. But that’s done nothing to solve the underlying problem. Students still need to borrow just to live.
And the result has flowed through in all sorts of unpredicted ways.
Yesterday Sue Kedgley noted that 20% of doctors at Southland were locums, seeking the higher pay that it came with being a locum.
“When 20 percent of the medical workforce is filled by locums, many working for only a few days or weeks at a time, this raises serious concerns around continuity of care, patient safety, and the viability of our medical workforce.”
This seems like ‘rational’ behaviour from the doctors’ when they’ve been told their education is a private good and their debt is a private debt that they need to pay off on their own. But the Southland DHB, meaning taxpayers, are paying a 25% premium for short term locum doctors. So was how much are we really saving by charging students massive fees and denying them a fair living allowance?