By Fraser Pugh
I like money. I like spending money, saving money and not spending money on things like education. That’s why, with the recent election of Jacinda Ardern, the prospect of a free uni year sounded pretty superb. Of course, that’s all I heard,‘Free education’ when listening to the TV, but I didn’t particularly know what that phrase entitled. So I sat down and conducted some research on what ‘Free Uni’ means and what we, Generation Z, are in for after school.
The average bachelor degree in New Zealand ranges from $4,000 to $8,000 a year, this figure is only the degree cost so excludes living costs. Most bachelor degrees come to a total of $18,000 to $35,000 once completed. This is a huge amount of money, especially for someone that is straight out of school. At this stage, Ardern is giving us a free first year but wants to make the second year free by 2019 – 2020. She is also offering a $50 weekly bonus on all student loans.
We need to speed up this process, tertiary education is far too expensive. If you look at European countries like Norway, Germany and France, they all have very low unemployment rates. These countries are leading powers in the fields of engineering, architecture and fair-wage factories. What do these countries have in common? Free tertiary education. Bingo. Make education free. More people will be upskilled, unemployment rates will plummet and NZ as a whole will prosper.
On top of the actual costs of a University degree, we will have to conjure up additional money for living costs, accommodation, food, transport, etc. The University of Auckland recommends $20,000 to $25,000 a year to live in Auckland, whereas Otago recommends $15,000 to $17,000 for annual living costs. Both of these figures are huge sums of money and coupled with your tuition fees you are looking at $25,000 plus per year! If you did a four-year bachelor at $25,000 a year, $100,000 all up, the government will pay for your first-year tuition fees, $8,000. $8,000 is less than 10%, which is nothing in the scheme of things, we may as well pay our own way through university. There needs to be more money in ‘free education’, so students don’t have the stress of raising an additional $15,000 to $30,000 a year.
But, there is always a ‘but’ to everything in life, the main ‘but’ on free tertiary education is, ‘where is the money coming from?’ The simple answer is that the government doesn’t have the money, and will either borrow it or raise taxes. Either way, the taxes are raised. The government could just straight up raise taxes, which most people will not be too pleased about. Or, they will borrow it from overseas, which will lead to a larger national debt. To pay this, the taxes will go up. However, there are many people out there who cannot afford university and would be a valuable asset to the NZ workforce. So, the taxpayers need to man up and remember that we will be paying the taxes one day.
The other argument is that ‘if everyone can get into uni, then lots of people will go, fail and cost the country millions’. I beg to differ. There will still be the same amount of places at the respective universities. However, they will be filled with the brightest minds of that generation, not just the people who get in because daddy’s rich.
I personally feel that a free first year is a good idea as it lessens the initial load of Uni, but in future I want tertiary education to become very close to free. This will improve the quality of students accepted into the uni’s and people will do better at uni as their time will be entirely on their studies.
To the people against a free first year, Jacinda will only spend the money somewhere else and taxes will go up anyway. Soon you’ll be retired and we’ll be paying the taxes. Tertiary education is vital in creating a better nation, but the expense of education is just too high and needs to become free to ensure the country has more highly skilled people.