Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Mike Hosking: Higher education can't just be given away

Part of the reason we started student loans is before that it was all funded by the taxpayer.

So, like when anything is free, people just wandered off to university to see what it was all about, to see if there was anything they liked, and to just generally “discover themselves.“

That led to a tremendous number of people never completing anything, as they worked out tertiary study wasn’t for them. You are either on a path to university or you aren't.

So, the idea of a student loan scheme was to allow you to go even if you didn’t have the funds. It gave you the incentive to chase your dream, but you had to be determined enough to realise some of the cost was on you and therefore you'd better be determined to make it work.

It's not been fool proof.

I can name you any number of people at university this very day who don’t know why they are there, don’t like it, probably won't stick it out, and they’ll have to face the debt of that decision.

The decision and its make up is part of life and part of growing up.

Canterbury University has decided to hand out 300 scholarships to low decile schools to make university more accessible. It's laudable, although woefully misguided.

Almost as much as Joe Biden's plan to forgive some student debt. He's promised it, but yet to deliver it as the reality of the size of the bill and the complexity of who you give it to and who you don’t smacks him between the eyes.

The critical mistake in Canterbury's decision is the simple fact that university isn't inaccessible because it is. It's accessible to everyone given the loan scheme.

Just because you come from a low decile school, a system so flawed by the way they are now getting rid of it, doesn’t mean you can't achieve and doesn’t mean you can't study at a higher level.

In some respects, it’s condescending. "Oh, you poor thing. Decile 2? Allow us to offer some charity."

A lot of people don’t have the money up front to attend university, the same way a lot of people don’t have the money up front to buy a house.

But both are investments and both are worth incurring debt for. That's what the loan scheme is. Where you come from is not a barrier to a better education, life, or outcome.

Unless you convince yourself, it is.

Loans, debt, pressure, uncertainty, hard work, diligence, and risk. They are all part of growing up, of taking on a challenge, of dreaming, and chasing achievement.

Handing it out on a plate because of perceived disadvantage diminishes the journey in life that makes it all worthwhile because you did it by yourself.

Mike Hosking is a New Zealand television and radio broadcaster. He currently hosts The Mike Hosking Breakfast show on NewstalkZB on weekday mornings


robert Arthur said...

If we went back to the system of the 1920s and failed students to their level, and streamed classes, levels of qualified acheivers would be comparable whatever the decile rating. The less able would not feel perpetually lost and absent themselves. Youngsters would be prepared for the reality of life beyond school when effective output suddenly matters.

Anonymous said...

i think it might be worth experimenting some of the novel methods being tried in US where colleges accept a share of income above a threshold for a period of time in lieu of tuition. this would take care of the so called 'student loan crisis' while making universities more choosy about the students they bet their funds on...

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely correct, Mike. But the real problem isn't tertiary, it's the years before where NZ is on the downward spiral, where we will all end up paying the price.