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Posts Tagged ‘tertiary education’

Letter to the editor: Setting it straight on user-pays in tertiary education

19 February 2016 4 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Labour’s promise of a return to (limited) free tertiary education appears to be unsettling some, for whom the last thirty years has been dominated by the implementation and bedding-in of  user-pays (often gradually, so as not to spook the punters) ; reduced-tax; and minimalist-government ideology;

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letter to editor - the wellingtonian - sue usher - student debt

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I replied to Ms Usher’s public expression of “guilt twinges”…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: Sat, Feb 13, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
The Wellingtonian

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Sue Usher defends user-pays in Universities, asserting, “anyone who takes out a loan on anything surely knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch; you are not given money, you are lent it”. (letters, 11 Feb)

Prior to 1992, there were no student loans/debt. Tertiary education was paid from taxes, with the expectation that graduates would, in turn, pay for following generations.

That was the social contract.

That contract dissolved when successive governments introduced user-pays, with seven tax cuts in 1986, 1988, 1996, 1998, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The burden of higher education shifted from society, onto individuals. By 2014, student debt reached $14.8 billion.

Ms Usher admits this unfairness, “I acknowledge that repaying a loan and trying to buy a first home is a mighty challenge and feel slightly guilty that my generation did not have any such system”.

John Key and Tertiary Education minister, Steven Joyce, should also feel a twinge of guilt. Both obtained their University degrees free, paying almost nothing.

Those who parrot the cliche that education is a “private good” should consider if our doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers, et-al, all decided to pack up and move overseas.

Or if none of us could read and write.

Education benefits us all, which user-pays fails to recognise.

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-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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Additional

Salient: A short history of tertiary education funding in New Zealand

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

IRD: Student Loan Scheme Amendment Act 2014 – Arrest at border

Fairfax media: Joyce defends student loan crackdown

Fairfax media: Student loan arrest could prompt others to address debt

NZ Herald: ‘I don’t think I’m a criminal’

Teara.govt.nz: National Party – The ‘mother of all budgets’

Sunday Star Times: Politics – John Key – A snapshot

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Related blogposts

Letter to the Editor: Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Year

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 February 2016.

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Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

6 August 2015 8 comments

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Fun Fact #1: Student loan stood at $14.235 billion, as at 30 June 2014 – up from 9.573 billion in 2008.

Fun Fact #2: As at 30 June 2013, 721,437 people had an outstanding student loan, registered with Inland Revenue. That’s roughly 16% of the population.

Fun Fact #3: Approximately 1.2 million people – roughly a quarter of the population –  have taken out  student loans.

Fun Fact #4: Students have borrowed $20.119 billion of which  $9.157 billion has been collected in loan repayments.  More than 415,000 loans have been fully repaid.

Fun Fact #5: $1.031.7 billion in loan repayments were received, $22.2 million less than last year. The total number of students completing formal qualifications reached 144,000 in 2013 – a decrease of 0.6% from 2012. The number of people enrolled in tertiary education has dropped, from  504,000 in 2005 to  about 420,000 (in 2014).

Fun Fact #6: The student fees/debt system began in 1992. Prior to that, students had access to Bursaries and Student Allowances and tuition fees were minimal.

Sources: Ministry of Education, Beehive, NBR, and The Wireless

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During Bill English’s Budget speech on 16 May 2013, the Finance Minister made perhaps the most  extraordinary announcement that I have ever heard from a New Zealand politician;

Introducing the ability to arrest non-compliant borrowers who are about to leave New Zealand

Making it a criminal offence to knowingly default on an overseas-based repayment obligation will allow Inland Revenue to request an arrest warrant to prevent the most non-compliant borrowers from leaving New Zealand. Similar provisions already exist under the Child Support Act. This will be included in a bill later this year.

It was extraordinary on at least two levels.

The first is because a loan defaulter does not normally fall under the Crimes Act. It is what is known as a Civil matter.

If, for example, you, the reader, default on your mortgage, rent, or hire purchase, the Lender does not involve the Police (unless deliberate fraud is involved). Instead, they apply to the Courts for a remedy.

The Tenancy Tribunal and Small Claims Court are examples where litigants can take their cases before a Court, and make their claims. Police are not involved. In the Tenancy Tribunal, there are not even any lawyers (generally).

For National to intend issuing arrest warrants, for student loan defaulters, takes the matter of a civil contract into the realm of the Crimes Act.

Secondly, this law – if enacted – would not stop people leaving New Zealand. It would prevent people returning to New Zealand.

The law targets ex-students with loans  who had moved overseas; who had defaulted on their loan repayments whilst overseas; and who then returned to New Zealand (perhaps for a funeral, holiday, or visit family). Only then were were they to be  arrested at an airport as they attempted to board a plane to fly out of the country again.

Shades of former USSR and it’s Eastern Europe satellite-states!

Under such circumstances; what loan-defaulting New Zealander in their right mind would ever consider coming back to this country?

The law was enacted, and as Alex Fensome reported for Fairfax Media last year;

However, others believe the increase [in former students declaring bankruptcy whilst overseas] is down to the Government’s more aggressive pursuit of recalcitrant debtors, and an attempt by some of the borrowers to wipe their New Zealand slate clean.

Student-loan defaulters can be arrested if they try to enter or leave New Zealand, under legislation passed last year.

A few days ago, it was reported;

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IRD monitoring 20 for possible arrest in student loan repayment crackdown - student debt - steven joyce.

To complete National’s Soviet-style crack-down on loan defaulters, the story also reported;

Ministers have also considered refusing to renew passports for those who do not engage with Inland Revenue.

As Finance Minister Bill English desperately tries to balance the government’s books and return to a Budget Surplus, it appears that National Ministers are prepared to go to any extraordinary lengths to claw back cash from New Zealanders. Whether those New Zealanders are low-paid paper-delivery boys and girls or the sick needing medication or ex-pat New Zealanders living overseas – this government is reaching deep into peoples’ pockets.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said this about issuing warrants-to-arrest for loans defaulters;

Just because people have left New Zealand it doesn’t mean they can leave behind their debt.  The New Zealand taxpayer helped to fund their education and they have an obligation to repay it so the scheme can continue to support future generations of students.

Which, when one looks into Joyce’s background, finds something curious.

Steven Joyce,  benefitted from a free, tax-payer funded, University education, with no debt incurred from his  tuition.

The facts are simple;

  1. Steven Joyce, born: 1963.
  2. After completing a zoology degree at Massey University, Steven started his first radio station, Energy FM, in his home town of New Plymouth, at age 21 (1984).
  3. Student Loan system is started: 1992.

Joyce completed his University studies and gained his degree eight years before the Bolger-led National government introduced student fees/debt in 1992.

Joyce’s university education was mostly free, except for minimal course fees. He was most likely  also eligible for a bursary and/or student allowance, as well, to assist his living costs.

As Joyce was reported in the Fairfax story;  “The New Zealand taxpayer helped to fund their education and they have an obligation to repay it so the scheme can continue to support future generations of students.

Will Joyce repay the cost of his University studies?

Or will he simply be one of those who benefitted from a near-free University education – paid by other hard-working taxpayers at the time  – and now insisting that others pay for their own tuition, racking up huge debts in the process?

Another case of a Baby Boomer telling Gen X to “do as I say, not as I do”?

Neither Joyce, nor Revenue Minister Todd McClay, have any moral authority to demand payment for tertiary education from any New Zealander.

Both men are hypocrites.

No one should take them seriously.

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References

National Business Review: Budget 2015 – student loans – does the government dare to act?

Ministry of Education: Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014

Beehive.govt.nz: Celebrating student support under Labour

IRD: Budget 2013 announcements

Fairfax  media: Wipe your student loan – go bankrupt

Fairfax media: IRD monitoring 20 for possible arrest in student loan repayment crackdown

NZ Herald: Budget 2012 – ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media: Prescription cost to rise to help pay for Budget

Wikipedia: Steven Joyce

National Party: Steven Joyce

Additional

Salient: A short history of tertiary education funding in New Zealand

NZ Herald: Minister to students – ‘keep your heads down’

Previous related blogposts

Greed is good?

It’s official: Political Dissent Discouraged in NZ!

Shafting our own children’s future? Hell yeah, why not!

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 August 2015.

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Student Defaulters – to be arrested on sight at all borders

16 June 2013 5 comments

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Student loan defaulters to face border arrest

Acknowledgment: Student loan defaulters to face border arrest

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With National declaring that student defaulters who have not paid for their education are to be arrested on sight at our borders, I thought it my civic duty to assist Police and Border Guards to share a Wanted poster with readers.

Please note that these people have not re-paid one cent of their free tertiary education.

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Police Wanted loan defaulters - poster

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These people are not to be approached as Police consider their ideological affront to common sense  to be  injurious to the public good.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 May 2013.

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See related blogpost:

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

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Greed is good?

28 August 2011 54 comments

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As we look back on the last 25 years of neo-liberal “reforms”, including User Pays; the canning of “Labour’s” superannuation savings plan in 1975 (by Muldoon – after being elected into office with his infamous “Dancing Cossacks”  TV ad); and National’s continuing high popularity in the polls, despite their avowed proposal to sell-down 49% of several State assets,  – it seems abundantly clear who has been  pulling the “strings”.

No, it’s not Washington. Nor the Bilderbergers. Nor the UN/New World Order/Illuminati.

The answer is mind-numbingly far more prosaic:  it’s us – the Baby Boomer generation. The 1960s and 1970s rebellious youth  weren’t just an “aberration” – they were a clear signal that the Baby Boomers had arrived; could be inclined to  incredible selfishness (hence the term the “Me Generation”); and we voted individually for personal gain – on a collective basis.

Yep. We have seen the “enemy” – and it’s us; graying; self-centered; resentful of the young (who we’ve well and truly shafted);  and looking back at ourselves in the mirror, wondering where it all went wrong.

The case of  Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, who tried to rort the tax system using Trusts  and companies – even though they had graduated BEFORE student loans and fees were implemented in 1992 – is the clearest example ever of our collective unbridled selfishness.

To re-cap;

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A court battle is over for two surgeons who challenged Inland Revenue over claims they tried to avoid tax bills worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, saying they underpaid themselves from their own businesses to avoid the top personal tax rate.

The issue arose after the previous Labour-led Government raised the top personal tax rate to 39%, compared to the company rate which was then 33%.

The orthopaedic surgeons openly paid themselves a lower salary than the market rate, arguing that they had a choice about how they operated their business.

They tried to challenge a Court of Appeal decision that found in favour of Inland Revenue, which said the surgeons had paid themselves salaries too small to be commercially realistic.

It said they were therefore able to avoid paying the top tax rate, while the balance of their businesses’ profits went as dividends to family trusts.

The trusts funded items such as a loan for one surgeon, and a holiday home for the other.

Inland Revenue said using those business structures to create artificially low salaries amounted to tax avoidance, saving each man between $20,000 and $30,000 a year for three years, beginning in 2002.

Supreme Court Justice Blanchard on Wednesday delivered a judgement supporting that argument, ordering Mr Penny and Mr Hooper to pay Inland Revenue $25,000 in court costs.

Mr Hooper told [Radio New Zealand ]Checkpoint the court has created a salary benchmark that is higher than the one countless private practitioners have been using.

He says they have been following Inland Revenue advice and calculating their salaries based on public hospital rates.

An Inland Revenue deputy commissioner welcomed the ruling, telling Checkpoint it clearly states and reaffirms what the department’s commissioner felt was the case all along. Carolyn Tremain says IRD has yet to fully absorb the implications and consequences of the ruling.

PricewaterhouseCoopers John Shewan, who appeared as a witness for the surgeons, said the case is important for individuals and firms. He said tens of millions of dollars may now be claimed by Inland Revenue from cases it still has open on this matter.

Source:  Radio New Zealand

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Specifically,

Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper set up companies, owned indirectly through trusts, to buy their surgical services and paid themselves artificially low salaries.

After 2000, Hooper’s personal income fell from $650,000 to $120,000 a year. Penny’s dropped from $302,000 to $125,000, and then to $100,000, while the income of their companies grew.

Source:  Dominion Post

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What makes this case of case of tax avoidance stand out is that none of it was ever necessary in the first place.

Dr Ian Penny received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery from Otago University in 1981.  He became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1990.

Dr Gary Hooper received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery  from Otago University in 1978 and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1985.

In simple terms, they graduated as doctors in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Tertiary education then was still nominally free. Plus,  student allowances were available to most students,

“Up until 1992, nearly every student (86.4 percent) studying at a public tertiary education institution in New Zealand received a living allowance or grant while they studied.

 Prior to the mid 1970s, student support was based on a system of bursaries and scholarships. In 1976, a new system of government-funded tertiary bursaries was introduced. This included a study or living costs grant that was available to most students.”

Source: NZUSA

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Student fees and student loans came into effect in 1992, during the Bolger-led National Government, when Ruth Richardson was Minister of Finance (and coincidentally the same year that Shortland Street came on air).

In simpler terms, Dr Penny and Dr Hooper enjoyed the benefit of near-free tertiary education before fees were raised in 1992. They had no student loans to repay, as  medical students currently do, and may well have benefitted from receiving a Student Allowance.

Contrast their free tuition with that of medical students, in the 21st Century:  “on average medical students will graduate with around $80,000 of debt and nearly 90% will have a student loan“, according to the  New Zealand Medical Students’ Association in April, last year.

So with a free education; in receipt of student allowances; and no student loan; Dr’s Penny and Hooper were, as Revenue Minister Peter Dunne stated;

… the important thing about this decision is to bear in mind the scale of what was happening. This wasn’t people minimising their income because they were reinvesting in their business. This was people minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability but still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.

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So not only did these gentlemen benefit from a free education – but they were now minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability [whilst] still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.”

God, you’ve no idea how sick this incident has  made me.  Let me explain why.

Prior to the introduction of “Rogernomics” in 1984 (and National’s addition from 1990 onward),  education in this country had been free (or as close as possible to free) to nearly all New Zealanders. Education whether at Primary School or University was funded by the previous generation; our Mums & Dads; Grandmothers & Grand dads. The idea was terribly simple; education was a right, and not to be determined by ability to pay.

In turn, as we graduated from schools and Universities, we – my generation, the “Baby Boomers” – were to fund our children through their education, through our taxes.

Except, it did not quite happen that way.

In 1984 we unknowingly elected a Labour Government that had been taken over by a secret cabal of neo-liberals, conservatives, and proponants of the Free Market. A raft of  radical changes were implemented throughout the economy and impacting directly on society.

Despite public objection; mass protests; and even vocal opposition from within the Government by some Labour MPs such as Jim Anderton, Labour was re-elected in 1987.  Curiously, they had increased their majority from 55 to 57.

During Labour’s two terms (1984 to 1990), they cut taxes twice, and implemented a new tax in 1986, called GST.

National followed, implementing User Pays in tertiary education whilst  cutting taxes in 1996 and 1998.

In 2008, despite evidence that the world was plunging into a global recession, John Key promised that National would again cut taxes. As New Zealand went into deep recession; unemployment rose; businesses closed down – National cut taxes in April 2009 and October last year.

Most of the public, it seems, will swallow User Pays if they stand to reap a benefit from tax cuts.

The social contract therefore, was well and truly broken between our (the Baby Boomers) generation, and our parents/grandparents.

We had taken their gift – that of free education which they had paid for – but we decided not to pass it on to our children. Instead, we accepted one tax cut after another. And social services were either cut or User Pays applied, to pay for those tax cuts.

To my generation of fellow Baby Boomers, I say this; we’ve well and truly  shafted our own children. We denied them the very same opportunities of a free education that our parents had bequeathed to us. Instead, we voted ourselves seven  hefty tax-cuts; instigated User Pays; and left our children saddled with $13.9 billion in student debt.

Is it any wonder that our children our leaving New Zealand in greater and greater numbers? They’re not just emigrating to seek better paying jobs – they’re sticking it to us for our unmitigated greed. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, our children realise what our generation has wrought, and by god, they are not happy.

No doubt there are some folk who will cheer on Drs Penny and  Hooper. These people  feel that paying taxes is “unfair” and that it is unreasonable for the State to take the money that they have worked hard for.

Perhaps I should take a moment to remind these people what their taxes were, and in many cases  are still, used for…

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Inter-island Ferry, Aramoana

Dams and other power generation projects

Our first television broadcast system

Roading and highways

Hospitals

University education

Dental care for our Children

Our Police and justice system

Railways and other public transport

Schools

State Housing

Infrastructure such as power transmission lines

Social welfare and superannuation

Bridges

Postal and telecommunications systems

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Many of these assets no longer reside in public ownership – but they were originally built and maintained by previous generations of taxpayers; our parents, grandparents, et al.

As the Baby Boomer generation, what have we built and left our children?

$13.9 billion in student debt?

No wonder they are departing our shores…

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But I leave the last word to this expat Kiwi, now living in Australia,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”

Source: Dominion Post

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Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Over-55s own most of NZ’s wealth

 

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Cutting skills training? How clever!

Mr Goff asked Prime Minister John Key about cuts to Salvation Army and YMCA training programmes. Mr Key said he did not have details, but “some of those programmes just simply were not delivering results”.

The Government was spending nearly $300m more on tertiary education in 2012 than in 2008.

Mr Goff said the Salvation Army job training programmes had outcomes “at a very high level – over 65 per cent”. Youth unemployment was at “record proportions” and there was a looming skills shortage crisis.

Mr Key said Mr Goff was “just plain wrong”. “I myself was in Christchurch some months ago, announcing the increase in skills training there specific to the rebuild of Christchurch. What the Government has done is to say … New Zealand taxpayers deserve to see value for money, and we will deliver them value for money by focusing on courses that actually have good outcomes.”

YMCA national chief executive Ric Odom said it would receive $370,000 less in funding because of TEC cuts of 14 per cent this year.

Salvation Army social services director Major Campbell Roberts said employment training was being pushed further into crisis after a five-year funding freeze.

If the Prime Minister doesn’t understand the meaning behind the recent riots in Britain, as disaffected young people took to the streets in anger and violence – then he is not as bright as I first took him for.

We desperately need more training at a time when youth unemployment is high – at 20% – and when we have a skills shortage that is hampering our economic recovery. This is not rocket science. Heck, it’s not carrot-growing science for that matter.

It strikes me as an act of spectacular stupidity that government is not focusing in on youth training with laser-beam-like intensity.

If we ignore this problem; if we allow it to fester unchecked; if we wait for the magical hand of the Free Market to do this for us – then the lessons of the London riots will be wasted.

This is not good governance.