Chris Hipkins has just put out a press release on my most hated policy - the fees free scheme, where we give tertiary students a free year at university because… no reason, just because.
It actually wasn’t too expensive to study. It actually wasn’t holding anyone back. It actually hasn’t bumped up the number of university students. The university bosses actually hate it. So, there was no reason to do it and nobody with any credibility was asking for it. It happened just because Labour felt like it.
‘First year’s on me,’ said the Prime Minister using your cash.
Anyway, Chris Hipkins has put out a press release on it today, and wow, what a way to rub in the fact that you’re funding some middle class kids’ ticket to becoming a surgeon.
Here’s the first line: “Students have saved hundreds of millions of dollars”.
Well whoop-de-doo good for them. And you’re welcome, because I paid for myself, but hey, millennials, we’ll pay for you - next year’s on us, after all.
The point of the press release, I take it, is to crow about how successful the scheme apparently has been because “Students have saved hundreds of millions of dollars”.
However, apart from all the savings they are making, they also said that 47,019 people took up the scheme, which is apparently a success.
Don’t get fooled by that because they thought 80,000 were going to, so that’s a fail.
That’s a 59% rate of what they expected. You know what 59% gets you at university? An F.
Why’d they expect 80,000? Well, because they thought university was so unaffordable that kids were sitting at home and despairing because they could afford to go and they were wasting their lives scraping together the money to be able to go. And if only it was free then all those kids would get their backpacks and their books and wash their little faces and trot off to class. Tens of thousands of them, until now held back by the coast of university.
So there was no point in this policy, other than wasting our money on kids who were going anyway.
And I’m wondering if maybe while we’re re calibrating KiwiBuild we can recalibrate this one at the same time.