How NZ university fees compare to the rest of the world – are they too high?

Credit: Original article can be found here

ROSS GIBLIN/STUFF

Finance Minister Grant Robertson reveals almost $200m allocated for the fees free policy is being reallocated after fewer enrolments than expected. (First published May 2019)

New Zealand university fees are higher than those in many European and Asian countries, according to a new study.

An analysis of 50 nations with top-ranking universities ranked New Zealand 14th most expensive, averaging $8595 per student per year.

The median annual cost of university fees across all countries was $5240.

University fees are more expensive in New Zealand than in France, Spain, South Africa and many other developed countries, according to a new analysis. (File photo)

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University fees are more expensive in New Zealand than in France, Spain, South Africa and many other developed countries, according to a new analysis. (File photo)

The US, where a single year of a bachelor’s degree would set you back a whopping $38,588 on average, topped the list.

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Australia, Japan, England, Wales, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Canada, Singapore and Ireland rounded out the top 10.

However, university fees were substantially cheaper in France, Spain, Hong Kong and South Korea than in New Zealand.

Bachelor’s degrees were completely free in Greece, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Saudi Arabia and Sweden.

In New Zealand, students pay for about 30 per cent of their tertiary fees. The Government funds the rest.

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In New Zealand, students pay for about 30 per cent of their tertiary fees. The Government funds the rest.

The research, compiled by UK online learning provider FutureLearn, used publicly available data on fees charged to domestic students in each country.

Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, president of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), said while students in other countries were worse off, having the 14th highest fees wasn’t a statistic of which New Zealand should be proud.

“I think [it] is indicative that our fees are too high for the type of country that we are.”

New Zealand Union of Students Associations president Isabella Lenihan-Ikin says debt is a barrier to people accessing education.

Kevin Stent/Stuff

New Zealand Union of Students Associations president Isabella Lenihan-Ikin says debt is a barrier to people accessing education.

She said some people stayed in low-paid jobs because they couldn’t afford student debt.

Some students surveyed by Canterbury and Lincoln university researchers described feeling “sick” and anxious about their futures when they thought about their student debt.

Student loan borrowers who owed upwards of $100,000 told Stuff they doubted they’d pay off the debt before they died.

According to the latest Student Loan Scheme Report, the average student loan balance among graduates with a bachelor’s degree was $31,960 in 2016.

In 2018, the average amount by university students borrowed for course fees was $7233, plus an additional $966 for course-related costs, such as books or equipment.

The average university student also borrowed $6013 annually for living costs.

Although the first-year fees-free policy had helped reduce student debt, Lenihan-Ikin said it didn’t go far enough.

The NZUSA wanted tertiary education to be fully funded.

After education minister Chris Hipkins announced in September that Labour would scrap plans to expand the fees-free policy to second and third year students, young people told Stuff they may reconsider tertiary study.

Education minister Chris Hipkins said in September his party, Labour, would no longer expand its fees-free policy if elected. (File photo)

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Education minister Chris Hipkins said in September his party, Labour, would no longer expand its fees-free policy if elected. (File photo)

Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan said although international research indicated some people avoided going to university because of concerns about the affordability of fees, no studies had found evidence of a similar trend in New Zealand.

“For us the more important measure of participation [which] is pretty much in line with other developed countries.”

Including countries which fully funded tertiary education in the analysis was not “comparing apples with apples” because they brought the median down, he said.

Chris Whelan, of Universities New Zealand, said unaffordable living costs were more likely than fees to put people off university study. (File photo)

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Chris Whelan, of Universities New Zealand, said unaffordable living costs were more likely than fees to put people off university study. (File photo)

Andy Jackson, tumuaki tuarua at Te Ara Kaimanawa (the education ministry) said New Zealand’s student allowance and loan scheme was “one of the most generous in the world”.

“It provides broad access to tertiary education by sharing the costs of that education between Government, students and families.”

How university fees are set

In New Zealand, the Government subsidises about three-quarters of domestic tertiary students’ tuition.

The remainder is charged to students as fees, which many pay by borrowing through the Governments’ student loan scheme.

By law, universities can only increase fees by a small amount each year. In 2021, fee increases will be capped at 1.1 per cent.

Stuff