Monday, May 28, 2012

Potential Effects of New Zealand Limiting Government Subsidies of Post-Secondary Education

Sources:
New Zealand Ministry of Education: Statement of Intent 2012 – 2017
Otagio Daily Times: Reining in student debt

The New Zealand government is implementing changes in the upcoming year  to the funding of post-secondary education as a way meet the challenges of balancing rising educational costs with managing the government’s finances. In New Zealand, all post-secondary education is called tertiary education, which includes both degree-granting and non-degree-granting education. A degree granting program includes programs that result in degrees such as a bachelor’s, master’s, or a Ph.D., while non-degree-granting programs include adult education or continuing education programs. Because New Zealand places a high value on tertiary education as a means of creating both greater opportunity and greater equality, the government provides a large amount of funding for students.
 
Under the current system, the government provides financial benefits for students who need financial support. Students who demonstrate a financial need, based on the incomes of both students and their parents, are provided a weekly allowance to help cover education costs. Currently, this allowance provides for four years of financial assistance, with the option to extend four additional years for post-graduate education. Besides this allowance, students who need further financial assistance are given the option of government loans that bear no interest. To pay back the loans, borrowers who earn an annual income of more than NZ$19,084 (US$14,395.45) are required to pay 10% of their earnings.
 
Starting next year, the New Zealand government will reduce the amount of government financial aid. It will do this by keeping the four-year allowances for students with financial need, but no longer allow students to apply for the extension of four additional years. In addition, the government has implemented a four-year freeze on the parental-income threshold for allowance qualification, which is currently set at NZ$55,027.96 (US$41,508.70). As for the student loans, borrowers will now be required to repay their loans at 12% of their income if their income is more than NZ$19,084 (US$14,395.45).
 
The changes have raised concerns among student organizations and New Zealand newspapers. Although students have not responded with violent protests seen recently in the United States and Canada, New Zealand students are concerned that they will no longer be able to afford post-graduate education, particularly in the field of medicine. Local New Zealand newspaper editorials also raise concerns of brain-drain. Brain-drain occurs when small or less-developed countries lose their most educated individuals to larger or more developed countries where these individuals will earn a higher income. The largest perceived threat for New Zealand is Australia, where the government only requires students who are paying back education loans to pay 4% of their income if they earn more than Aus$48,000 per year (US$46,861.45).
 
The New Zealand government intends to address these concerns. By reducing the benefits provided to students, the government will save an estimated NZ$70 million per year, which it will reallocate within the tertiary education system to promote math, science, and engineering. In concert with this reallocation, the New Zealand government will also employ collection agencies to seek repayment of student debt for New Zealanders who have left the country to seek employment elsewhere. Both efforts seek to help the tertiary education system remain financially stable and prevent brain-drain.
 
In this way, New Zealand is attempting to balance financial viability in its tertiary education system by reducing student benefits while putting in place measures that will maintain an educated population.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

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