Hundreds of students have been ripping off the Government’s Fees Free policy and getting their tertiary fees covered despite being ineligible, National’s Associate Tertiary Education spokesperson Simeon Brown says.
“The Government has paid $23,000 to three students who were ineligible for Fees Free, and another student $3000. While these students made false declarations on their applications, they have been able to keep the funding and face no consequences for breaking the law.
“It’s unfathomable these individuals have been able to get off scot free.
“Even though it is an offence, 473 applicants have made false declarations about their eligibility for Fees Free in the first two years of the policy. Despite this number, less than one percent of those who made false declarations have been charged.
“The Government is sending a message to students that you might as well try your luck at receiving Fees Free funding, regardless of your eligibility, because not only will you not face any punishments, you could get some free cash out of it.
“Ineligible students who have had their tertiary fees covered should either pay back the money or have it transferred on to their student loan. It isn’t fair that they’ve merely had a telling off, if that.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins has some serious questions to answer about how this scheme operates. We know almost 500 people have been caught, but how many more have got away with lying on their application, and how much more taxpayer money has been paid out when it shouldn’t have?
“This sets a terrible precedent for the future. If Chris Hipkins is serious about helping tertiary students he should be looking into this as a matter of urgency and putting a stop to people abusing the system, rather than letting them get away with it penalty free.
“Fees Free has been an expensive failure. Taxpayers are not only paying for a policy that has resulted in fewer students, they’re also paying for students who shouldn’t have been eligible in the first place.”