Question Of The Day

We Asked Kiwi Students How Bitter They Are to Miss Out on Free Uni

"Nothing comes free."

The New Zealand Labour Party has made some substantial promises over the past few months: cleaner rivers, better public transport, more affordable housing and arguably their boldest policy yet—no university fees for first year students. Now they're in Government, the policy is part of the 100-day plan and will roll-out from next year, with one noticeable exception—existing students won't benefit. Originally criticised as a move to grab the young vote, the policy has unsurprisingly been met with some salty sentiment from students, especially those who were born too early to benefit from Jacinda's generosity. We took to the streets to gauge the vibe and ask Auckland students how bummed they are to miss out on free uni.

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KIRSTEN, 20

Hi Kirsten. What do you think about the plan to give first years free uni starting next year?
I think it's a bit stupid to be honest. If you're going to make any year of uni free it should be the final year, because that's an incentive to work towards. The amount of people who go to uni in the first year and then drop out is ridiculous, and with free education that will probably skyrocket.

Are you pissed about missing out on a year of free university?
I'm pissed at the fact that eventually all years of uni could be free. That means when I come out of uni my student loan is huge, and everyone else applying for job won't have to worry about repayments.

If you did get your first year of education for free, do you think your lifestyle as a student would be different?
I think I'd still work hard with my uni work, but outside of uni I probably wouldn't work as much as I do now. I have three part time jobs at the moment. I'd give myself more time for a social life because money and my impending debt wouldn't be on my mind as much.

Would having free education change your attitude towards studying?
If education was free I wouldn't value it as much. The fact that I'm paying for my degree makes me want to work harder, because I want to make my money count. If it was free, I feel like I just wouldn't care.

JOSHUA, 19

What do you think about the plan to give first years free uni starting next year?
I think it's great. It's a movement towards education in New Zealand coming first. The first year of uni is possibly the most important, because most people drop out within the first year. If you can make that decision without having to get 10 grand in debt, I think that's quite good.

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Surely you're a bit bummed about missing out on a year of free university?
No. Change has to happen and if I miss out on that change, then that's fine.

If you did get your first year of education for free, would you have done what you're doing now?
I probably would have done a different degree, something a little bit more out-there, because I would have that safety net where I could change my mind completely and it wouldn't cost me a lot of money. That might become a problem though if people start wasting that one year of free education on stupid shit, and it could be heavily abused, but like, just don't. Easy.

Would having free education change your attitude towards studying?
Yeah. I'd be a lot less motivated. That's a jarring problem for young people. It sucks, but I think that's why the plan at the moment is only for the first year. We need to trial it a bit to see if it gets abused like hell.

RACHEL, 19

What do you think about the plan to give first years free uni starting next year?
I think it's bloody fantastic. It's going to open up so many opportunities for people trying to go to university.

Does missing out on a year of free university bother you?
I mean, I'm a bit salty about it and I wish that was me, but I'm more happy for the people who are going to get that opportunity.

Is there any way you'd change the plan to make it more fair or suitable?
I like the idea of paying your fees, but getting the money back from that first year once you've completed your degree. That saves people from just wasting a year because they can.

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Would having free education change your attitude towards studying?
No. I have this weird reverse mentality where I'm like "it's my money, I can waste it if I want to", and that's my own fault. However if uni was free, I'd take it more as an opportunity that's been handed to me on a silver platter, and if I don't take that opportunity now, then I'm just fucking dumb.

ADEL, 21

What do you think about the plan to give first years free uni starting next year?
I voted for Labour, but I think it's pretty stupid. I just think that it's something that could be abused by a lot of students, and in terms of finance and economy, that side is being hidden. All they're promoting is the free fees, but nothing comes free.

Are you pissed about missing out on a year of free university?
Yeah.

Would having free education change your attitude towards studying?
I slacked a lot in my first year of uni, and I feel like I'd slack off even more if it was free. It would be hard to take uni seriously if it's free, especially coming straight out of high school.

Is there any way you'd change the plan to make it more fair or suitable?
The reason I voted for Labour is because principle-wise I agree with them. I agree with how they're trying to make things easier for people similar to me, but I'm not too sure on this plan yet. And I'm not too sure how it can be done suitably.

NATASHA, 20

What do you think about the plan to give first years free uni starting next year?
I think it's great, it's cool that anybody could have the opportunity to do it. So many students have to give up their study because they can't afford their fees. There are also so many implications that finance has on mental well being.

Do you find it unfair that you're missing out on a year of free university?
No, it's not about me. Yeah, it would have been cool to have free education but it's cooler that other people will have it.

Did the cost of your degree have an impact on the university or degree you chose?
I really wanted to study theatre, but I never went down that path because I had so much pressure from my parents and from a financial point of view. I think that a free one-year trial year is really important.

If you were studying for free, do you think your attitude towards university would change?
I feel like I would put in the same amount of effort, because it's the same opportunity.