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Another flagship Labour policy has failed with Finance Minister Grant Roberson announcing today the fees-free programme had not met enrolment expectations and delivered an underspend, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Shane Reti says.

“Cabinet documents forecast 80,000 learners taking up fees-free last year, when in fact only 50,000 students enrolled, causing the $2.8 billion program to return $197 million back to the Government to reallocate.

“Fees-free has been a failure from the very start with 2400 fewer students enrolling in tertiary education and training than a year ago. The Government has poorly allocated money in education and now it’s in a situation where teachers are engaging in the largest ever industrial action in New Zealand, and one of its key policies has fallen over.

“A recent study showed only six per cent of students found the fees-free policy was critical to them enrolling, but these students were also more likely to drop out of the courses they were enrolled in.

“This is another case of Labour over promising and raising expectations in Opposition and now under delivering. Fees-free joins a long list of Government failures, including welfare reform, KiwiBuild and a Capital Gains Tax. The Government is big on talk but has no plan.

“In the Government’s so called ‘year of delivery’, we’re yet to see any actual delivery.

“Using the underspent $197 million from failed fees free to sustain his disastrous reforms in the polytechnic sector is simply one bad policy propping up another. The Education Minister needs to urgently re-evaluate fees-free and at least delay the rushed reforms of the polytechnic sector.”

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