Michael Cullen has taken action to help prevent repeats of tertiary funding scams such as the Cool IT CD produced by Christchurch Polytechnic. This is better late than never – but really there is no excuse for Maharey not acting when first aware of these problems years ago. The job of Ministers is to change and refine policies as loopholes or problems emerge.
So well done to Dr Cullen for starting to fix the mess he inherited.
However I don’t think what Cullen has done will be entirely effective, and it has some dangers such as Ministers choosing what courses are “worthy”. But most of all it only targets supply, not demand.
The core problem as I see it is that almost all the scam courses have been free (this does not mean all free courses are scams). This means that a prospective student will sign up to it regardless of value or merit as nothing to lose if they don’t complete it, or gain value from it. This is how one Technology Institute signed people up in hamburger bars for radio sing-alongs, and another effectively gave out CDs which turned people into enrolled students.
Now if there was even a minimal fee of $250, I would say those scam courses would never have eventuated. For $250 you will not sign up in a hamburger bar to a radio sing-along course.
Yes there would need to be some exemptions such as for the innovative Southland Institute of Technology which gets such strong community funding that it offers all courses for free. But don’t let the one or two exceptions stop a policy which would stop most of the scams.
You see while the Government will target supply, and will work harder at not approving funding for dubious courses, some will still slip through.
Therefore my solution remains a compulsory minimum fee for all tertiary education courses. I bet you the scam courses would disappear overnight. Because basically you make different choices when spending taxpayer money, and your own.