Sunday, April 18, 2010

Six years to complete a degree or student loans stop

Post has been updated - see comment below
Steven Joyce wants students to finish their degrees quicker. If they don’t finish them in six or seven years, well, they can fund the degree themselves as they won’t be able to get a student loan. And fair enough too, for full time students. He appears to be blaming students for dragging the chain because student loans are interest free.

It’s unclear whether “student loan” means for course costs ( I assume so) as well as living costs, and if so, that has the potential to cause problems, particularly for extramural students who work while studying – and may, for example, do a few papers a year and finish the last year off full time. If a student takes two or three papers a year, completing 16 papers in say six years, and decides to do the last eight papers as a full time student, will they be able to get a student loan if the limit is six years; will they be able to get a student loan for course costs in the last year if they complete the final eight papers over two years? And that's for a three year degree. Some degrees - for example Social Work - are four year degrees.Medical degrees are abut six years in length.

What happens if a student - particularly an extramural student - wants to have a break in studying for a year because their job is going well or they want to have a year off to concentrate on, say, raising a newborn child? Additionally, each extramural student costs less money and time than internal students, as they don’t go to lecturers or tutorials, and use campus facilities a lot less, yet their fees are also set to increase.

It took me six years to do my degree (including honours) but that was only because I did the last three years full time, passed all my papers, worked part time and in the last year survived on about five hour's sleep a night, on average. Neither did I have any years in between where I took no papers at all. Hardly any extramural students (of which I was one) study full time for three years running. Sure, students who work full time may not take up loans for living costs, but they have to pay for course costs and books (and in my case airfares, transport and accommodation costs to contact and block courses) somehow.

If I was a lifetime student, I’d just do another degree and do it within six years. Then do another one. If I studied at my current rate, I'd have three honours degrees in the time that Steven Joyce took to do his degree in zoology, a degree he has said he has never used. And that's with a three year gap in between.

UPDATE Just had a chat to the Minister's office - apparently the proposal is for effective full time students (EFTS). An EFTS is eligible for a student allowance, and does at least six papers a year. Meaning that this part of the policy will not affect extramural students who gradually complete their degrees, unless they are an EFTS for at least six years, and the policy won't affect post graduate study at all. Good.



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