Holly Walker

Students – the numbers don’t lie…

by Holly Walker

It seems like we’ve been inundated with news and information relating to students and the tertiary sector over the last few days, so I thought I’d get it all down in one place…

A week ago, two Victoria Uni students released the Keep Our Talent survey, which raised serious concerns about the future for postgraduate study in New Zealand. Their survey of 200 students found that up to 40% were considering turning their back on postgraduate studies – including 1 in 5 who were looking to go overseas – because of the Government’s decision to cut student allowances for postgraduates.

Their research also highlighted how poorly the Government has managed this policy change, with many of the students unaware that they would be affected.

On Monday last week, the Annual Report for the Student Loan Scheme was released, which details the costs of the scheme and information on repayments and uptake of loans in the last year. It includes interesting stats on the number of borrowers, median repayment rates, and the size of loans. It also showed that student debt has now reached $13 billion.

On Tuesday, we were finally provided the Budget documents we’d been waiting on since an OIA request was submitted in July. Over 60 documents have been made available via the education website, detailing the Budget-related advice the Minister received from officials prior to the Budget relating to Tertiary and Student Support decisions.

The Student Loans and Allowances: 2011 information was also released on Tuesday, which is a compilation of info from the Minister of Education, MSD and IRD that gives us information on the educational characteristics of student loan borrowers and student allowance recipients, as well as their loans, allowances, income, and repayment information. It shows that a greater proportion of students are taking out a student loan, more students are receiving a student allowance, and that the average amount borrowed is increasing.

In response to this report’s finding that student enrolments are at their lowest level since 2002, Minister Steven Joyce made a pretty revealing statement about this Government’s attitude towards study, by claiming that it was “good news” that 30,000 fewer people were studying in 2011 than the year before.

The Ministry of Education released another report on Thursday – Profile and Trends 2011: NZ’s Tertiary Education Sector – which is an annual survey on the tertiary education system. It looks at enrolment patterns and the outcomes of study, including post-study earnings.

Meanwhile, students are still contacting me as they discover from Studylink that they’re no longer eligible for student allowances next year and face tough decisions about whether they can continue their studies. With record numbers of graduates moving overseas this is the time for smart tertiary policy that invests in our future and lessens the burden of debt. Unfortunately Minister Joyce and his policies are taking us in the exact opposite direction – let’s hope that he and his Government sit up and take notice of these foreboding statistics before any more damage is done to the tertiary education sector and it’s students.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Holly Walker on Tue, December 11th, 2012   

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