Zero-fee policy: Making tertiary education and training accessible and affordable for all?
The new Labour led government implemented a zero-fee tertiary policy as part of its first 100-day plan to improve tertiary level participation in New Zealand and to reduce financial barriers. With the first cohort of eligible students enrolling in 2018, the benefits and limitations of this scheme have yet to be determined. This paper discusses the key details and the underpinning rationale of the zero-fee initiative and considers the possible impacts on participation rates, including participation for groups such as those from low socio-economic backgrounds and Māori/Pasifika students. It is argued that the fees-free policy has the potential to enhance tertiary education participation in New Zealand. Yet, as a standalone policy it will not address all the existing barriers, especially for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Finally, key areas for further research are proposed to address gaps in the existing knowledge base and to indicate early trends between the new policy and changes in tertiary level participation.
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