The Government’s fees free scheme is not only an educational failure, it is also wasting tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers money on free gap years and late withdrawals, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Paula Bennett says.

“The Tertiary Education Commission today confirmed at its annual review that around 5000 students who received a year of free tertiary education have failed this year at a cost of $35 million to the Government.

“The TEC also confirmed that once you add in the costs from the 2619 students who withdrew from their courses after using the fees free scheme, the taxpayer will be stumping up over $50 million for nothing.

“Taxpayers will be rightly unimpressed at over $50 million being flushed down the drain instead of being used to help settle pay disputes or going into funding their multiple broken promises in health. This from a Government which has said over and over again there’s no more money and that its Ministers should be cutting one per cent from their budgets.

“Finally, the TEC today revealed they are considering prosecuting up to 20 students for attempting to rort the system and get a free year of study by falsifying their applications. This number could also increase as more data comes in.

“The fees free policy is a $2.8 billion failure that has done nothing but reduce the number of students studying, and increase the number having a holiday courtesy of the taxpayer. Minister Hipkins needs to immediately reconsider his ill-thought out bribe before New Zealanders spend billions more on years two and three.”

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