The number of students enrolling in tertiary education has dropped to its lowest point in more than a decade, according to Ministry of Education figures.
Ministry figures show 353,000 domestic students were enrolled in tertiary education last year, down from 423,030 people in 2009.
The decline has been caused by the lack of financial support available to students and rising living costs, the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations said.
NZUSA president, Jonathan Gee, told Radio New Zealand, that rising rents was one of the biggest issues facing students.
Sandra Grey, national president of the Tertiary Education Union, also said the drop in student numbers was symptomatic of National’s approach to tertiary education over the last nine years.
“For nine years we’ve had a government that has reduced access to tertiary education, particularly in rural areas, by cutting funding and forcing institutions to compete. What we need is a change of approach to ensure everyone that wants to can access tertiary education – and that when they do there is sufficient support available to help them meet living costs,” Grey said.
The figures show that participation in tertiary study has declined across all age groups except under-18s, with the largest drop among those over 40, where participation nearly halved from 6.7 percent to 3.6 per cent.
People over 40 years of age are no longer eligible for student allowances and those over 55 could not get student loans.
The decline in tertiary participation is mainly in non-degree qualifications, according to the Ministry of Education.
A spokesperson for the Ministry told RNZ that school-leavers’ progression to bachelors-level study went up 0.8 percentage points from 2015 to 2016, while non-degree and certificate study fell 1.4 to 1.5 percentage points.