Education Minister Chris Hipkins would have been wise to follow his own advice that “anecdotes are not always a good way of making Government policy”, with virtually no extra students taking up tertiary study under his Government’s $2.8 billion fees-free policy, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Government’s rationale for this hugely expensive policy was that the cost of tertiary education was a barrier to entry for many, based solely on anecdotal evidence.

“The 2018 academic year is now underway and Universities New Zealand has revealed that the policy has had no real effect on enrolments. This is hardly surprising and means the Government is spending $2.8 billion to solve a problem that simply doesn’t exist.

“It ignored the fact that tertiary education in New Zealand was already among the most accessible in the world. The money for fees could be borrowed interest-free, and students from low-income families received weekly allowances that weren’t required to be paid back.

“The Government might have realised this was a bad policy had it undertaken a cost-benefit analysis but it was revealed in Select Committee earlier this month that it hadn’t bothered, despite the policy coming with a hefty price tag.

“Now we have a situation where $2.8 billion is being spent on students who would have gone into tertiary education anyway and were prepared to contribute to the cost of their study.

“If the purpose of this massive new investment is to increase participation in tertiary education, then the Government has failed.

“It’s a textbook example of why anecdotes are not always a good way to make Government policy.” 

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