Productivity Commission recommends vouchers for tertiary education

Stuff reports:

Students should return to paying interest on their loans in an attempt to make more accessible for all, a report to the Government suggests.

The Productivity Commission, an independent Crown entity, is recommending interest be charged on new student loans, as part of a proposed overhaul of the tertiary education sector.

However, the Government, Labour and the Greens have all said they are not keen to act on the recommendation.

The commission is also suggesting the Government increase the income threshold for repayments, and is seeking feedback on an idea to give all New Zealanders a “budget” to spend on tertiary study once they turn 16.

Scrapping University Entrance and allowing tertiary institutions to set their own entry criteria has also been put on the table. …

The commission was also looking for feedback on the concept of a student education account. Money would be given to all 16-year-olds, to be spent only on approved education courses.

Students would then be driving demand, and providers would have to be responsive to their needs, Sherwin said.

“It’s really out there as a conceptual flyer to say if you really wanted to shift the system, how would you do it? 

“If you really wanted to make a difference you need to shift the funding mechanism, this is the sort of thing that might do the trick.”

This is a good idea in theory but I’m wary that it can work in practice.

Even under the current scheme you’ve seen providers sign up prospective students in hamburger joints to try and get them to enrol in a course so the institution gets the funding. I think under vouchers you’d get a huge number of low quality providers and courses. The only way around this would be to say that the voucher can only be used for say up to 80% of course costs so students are having to use their own money also (and hence be far more selective). But then you get some not being able to afford to study, so overall I can’t see this happening.

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