The hike in fees faced by AUT students in 2018 is a necessary step, according to the university.
For domestic students, their fees will have a two percent increase while international students enrolling for their first year will have an increase of four percent.
AUT’s Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack says the increase in domestic student fees barely covers the surge in running costs for the university, thanks to inflation.
“The increase helps to keep pace with the increase in the costs the university bears with things like salaries and rents,” says McCormack.
However, Acting Student President of AUTSA Nadine Tupp reckons AUT’s upper management can forget what it’s like to be a struggling student.
“It could be seen as necessary from the university’s side of things... but from a student who is already struggling to make rent and buy food, it just adds to a horrific amount of stress,” says Tupp.
Tupp applauds the resources the university offers, like the health, counselling and financial services, but says the university system may be forcing students to need these support services because of the increased stress involved with being at university.
“I’d love to see the university recognise the pressures students are under and what being a student nowadays entails and what that means for our mental health especially,” says Tupp.
For domestic student fees, the government sets an Annual Maximum Fee Movement percentage, and universities are not allowed to increase fees beyond that. This year the maximum increase was two percent, as it was in 2017, but international student fees have no increase limit.
McCormack believes it is becoming more financially challenging for universities to deliver an education that matches student expectations, especially with pricey facilities and students being unhappy with the size of classes. “Those problems are a result of the lack of attention to the proper funding of universities,” says McCormack.
As with most unis, the government helps out AUT with some funding through the Student Achievement Component (SAC), which covers a range of things, part of which is performance-based. However, McCormack says this isn’t enough.
“The rate of [SAC] has only risen by one percent in several years and that doesn't keep pace with inflation,” says McCormack. “So the two percent domestic fee increase barely covers the cost of inflationary increases.”
However, according to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s inflation calculator, inflation only rose by 2.2 percent from 2016 to 2017 (quarter one), which is approximately the same rate that the university increased domestic fees by.
Also, while having pricier fees may allow the university to provide better facilities, Tupp believes the impact on students may negate the benefit of the resources. “If you’ve got stressed students who can’t use that learning environment [because they’re stressed],