Proposed 6% tuition hike ‘disheartening’

University of Otago student Bianca Slater is worried about the proposed changes to tuition fees....
University of Otago student Bianca Slater is worried about the proposed changes to tuition fees. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
University of Otago students are crying foul over a proposal which could see their tuition fees hiked by 6% next year.

The changes were signalled in this year’s Budget, after Tertiary Education Minister Penny Simmonds said that fees had increased in recent years "significantly below the rate of inflation" which has been "making it harder for providers to maintain the quality of their courses".

At Otago University, undergraduate tuition fees range from about $6545 per year for arts, languages, theology, mathematics and education to over $17,390 for dentistry and medicine.

Otago University Students’ Association president Keegan Wells called the moves "disappointing and disheartening".

"It shows this government looks at tertiary education as a commodity rather than a public good. Having these rules imposed on students today when many of the people in government, including Penny Simmonds, did not pay for tertiary education is a crooked system.

"There is a clear disparity between them benefiting from their free education to now claiming it has not raised with inflation. Fees have risen over 9000% since 1991, inflation has not.

"The minister is implementing a stronger user-pay system instead of giving tertiary institutions the funding they need to undertake one of the largest public services there is, education."

Her comments were echoed by students who spoke to the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

"I barely have enough money as it is to pay for rent, food and electricity," student Eliza Smith said.

Fellow student Daisy Orbell agreed.

"It’s a struggle already ... we wouldn’t want to use any showers outside the ‘free power’ periods, or turn on the heaters unless we really have to."

Student Bianca Slater said it did not seem fair.

"We’re already paying an inordinately large amount of money to be here and the fact it’s now become our responsibility to fix their [the university’s] financial difficulties doesn’t seem right."

Student Sam McDonald said he was disappointed, but felt like "you had to pay it anyway".

Ms Simmonds reiterated it was a proposal and she looked forward to submissions "from OUSA and other student groups".

"The proposed Annual Maximum Fee Movement rate of 6% for 2025 is higher than forecast inflation [2.2%], but this needs to be viewed in the context of inflation increasing by 20% since 2020 and cumulative increases since then being only 10.35%.

"This variance has constrained providers’ ability to manage cost pressures. Fees in 2025 will remain lower in real terms than they were in 2020."

The Tertiary Education Commission will put the proposal out for public consultation later this year.