31 July 2014
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations is calling for targeted support for first-in-family students to address New Zealand’s cripplingly low levels of social mobility.
“We have produced a fully-developed and costed proposal to help break the cycle of educational poverty. We call upon political parties to commit to bringing it to fruition,” said Daniel Haines, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).
“The policy provides for fee-free education, and requires the institutions receiving the students to have programmes that reach into secondary schools to select and nurture the students who should be aspiring to degree-level study, and support when they are at the institutions to succeed. Institutions will be rewarded enabling funding for the support needed, with a completion bonus. It includes provision for stair-casing and bridging programmes and for students taking longer to complete than the minimum, since this is likely to be a reality,” said Haines.
“The literature tells us that a key barrier for underrepresented groups is the lack of understanding of the benefits of tertiary education and the lack of familial support for potential students from backgrounds where higher level tertiary education is not traditionally common. Hence this policy, once one person in a family has gone through it becomes normal, familiar, and both whanau support and aspirations are transformed forever.”
“As secondary school students we’ve all sat beside someone at who should have carried on to get a tertiary education but set their goals too low, put off by the crippling level of fees and an unfamiliar tertiary environment. It was step too far for them. I was the first person my family to get a tertiary education and had it not been for my extended family who had been there before me and prepared me, even if subconsciously, I wouldn’t be here today. This is for those who didn’t have some of the advantages I had.”
“We are still arguing for fee-free education and are delighted that parties have put this on the agenda for this election. This is both a step towards that goal but also recognises that even when fees are abolished some students will still need additional support to lift their aspirations and enable their success. Supporting first-in-family students is absolutely key to transforming our society for the better.”
“Degrees are required for this transformation, either research-based degrees at universities or applied degrees at polytechnics. Even Paula Rebstock’s Welfare to Work Report recognised this in advocating that beneficiaries need to be supported into degree programmes. Having access to only lower level courses traps people into cycles of educational disadvantage.”
“We call for parties who seek a better New Zealand to support this policy and to work with us and other educational leaders to make it happen,” says Haines.