When is Late to the Party, Too Late to the Party?.

By Ellen R. Dixon (New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations)

There is a type of late to the party known as fashionably late, that gives an impression of nonchalance and entertainment. Then there’s a type of late that is simply that… late.

The last two years have seen vast transitions in the education sector, with students’ experience disrupted from the cost-of-living crisis, the pandemic, and natural disasters, to the strikes from early childhood through to tertiary education.

The 2023 Budget is hailed by the Minister of Education as the “biggest increase in at least 20 years,” with more than $521 million in a 5% SAC increase from 2024. More than $180 million has been directed by the TEC to fund 16,000 full-time equivalent students in 2024, and 13,000 in 2025. A $220 million loan will be provided to Te Pūkenga to support centralising it’s IT systems, while the TTAF and Fees Free will be sustained. Apprentices, trainee teachers, researchers, and many more got a look in, with tertiary claimed to be a “Budget winner.”

While we welcome increased funding to a sorely underfunded sector, students remain concerned. With student debt ballooning at $16 billion (NZD), the threat of course closures, staff layoffs, and asset sales, amidst rumours of tuition increases, the Government must acknowledge that they are no longer fashionably late to the party. We have not seen the end of staff layoffs, course cancellations and asset sales, despite an upward trend in funding.

We are glad that the Budget has acknowledged student activism in climate change, public transportation, housing, and the Winter Energy Payment, but we reiterate: this is not the same thing as investing in students themselves. Indirect investment in students through the likes of Fees Free, have not supported equity due to poor application. There has been no attempt to address the broken promise of postgraduate allowances, despite stipends being below minimum wage. The Apprenticeship Boost aims to support 30,000 apprentices, yet there remain insufficient

protections for apprentices who can be exploited as a low-wage workforce.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations welcomes our Budget 2023: The Student Scorecard – Support For Today Assessed by the Leaders of Tomorrow in partnership with Te Mana Ākonga and the National Disabled Students’ Association, to be released on Wednesday. This document assesses the Budget by students for students, acknowledging that the student leaders of today – as leaders of tomorrow – are essential to achieve a quality education for all.