What the new free tertiary scheme might mean for you

Fees-free tertiary education and industry training will get very real for around 80,000 people next year. Are you going to be one of them?

The coalition government have come good with their promise to offer one year of free tertiary study to school leavers, starting in 2018. If you’re looking at industry training or an apprenticeship pathway, it’s two years free from January 1st next year.

Estimates are that about 50,000 new students will train or study at a polytechnic, start industry training or enroll at a wānanga or a PTE. The remainder, up to 30,000 students, will study at university.

3% rise in student numbers expected

The reality is that most of these 80,000 would be taking the same pathway regardless of the promise of their first year of study or training being fees free. In fact, estimates are that the policy will boost student numbers by just 3%, or some 2000 new students who may not have gone into study or training.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will implement and run the policy. TEC has up the Fees Free website to help prospective students and trainees confirm their eligibility.

Supporters outnumber critics

The scheme has many more vocal supporters than critics. Careers advisers at low-decile schools in Northland have said the policy will "open the door" for many low-income students who could not otherwise afford further education. On the other side, National’s tertiary education spokesman (and former minister) Paul Goldsmith has flailed at just about every aspect of the scheme, comically stating it will aid only the sons and daughters of the wealthy. Really?

The new government has also lifted student allowances and student loan living cost limits by $50 a week, creating even more incentive to consider study after school.

All the answers to your questions

Am I eligible?

How will it work?

What courses does it include (or not include)?

Do the courses need to be Level 3 or above?

Find all the answers to these and many more questions on the useful FAQ page from the Fees Free website

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