Fees Free – and so it continues

I don’t suppose that the Minster of Education reads my blog. He’s a busy person. One might say “a man with a mission”.

Unfortunately, sometimes it is better to hasten slowly, and this is particularly true of Fees Free. I suspect that the Minster is unaware of the problems affecting Fees Free and the rather messy train crash which awaits him. Regrettably you as a provider may get caught up in the crash.

TEC, which was given the task of implementing a highly complex and ill-planned scheme, was put in a wretched position, but we are nearly in June now and TEC is not helping itself or the Minister by pretending it is all under control.

How about this for example? A smallish provider reported the April SDR on 19 April. It contained enrolment data for 194 SAC3+ funded students, all of whom are consuming more than 0.5 EFTS. On 25 May a file containing 67,409 records was downloaded from Workspace2. This file purports to “contain a list of all NSNs that have been assessed as eligible for Fees Free tertiary study”. It doesn’t, because for those 67,409 records 9,519 show a status of “U – Unknown”. This type of misleading wording happens a lot with Fees Fee. It doesn’t help.

But here’s the real problem, 48 records for the 194 reported by the provider in the April SDR can be matched to records in the Workspace2 file: 47 of which show as a status of “Y- eligible” and one of which shows a status of “U – Unknown”.  Evidently then TEC is not successfully matching SDR data when determining Fees Free status. Five of the 48 students have withdrawn. They could happily wander off and enrol elsewhere thinking that they are Fees Free entitled.

48 out of 194 is certainly a high proportion but the same type of problem exists for other providers albeit to a lesser degree depending on the percentage of Fees Free students enrolling.

Another problem identified with TEC’s determination of Fees Free status is that what is shown in the Workspace2 file does not match what is on the FeesFree.govt.nz web site. Again a hapless student can be misled.

These problems and others have been drawn to TEC’s attention – some as far back as December 2017 – but have still not been addressed.

So, what does it mean?

  • A lot of extra compliance work for the providers.
  • A lot of frustration for individual students.
  • An inability by TEC to reimburse providers the correct value of fees covered by the Fees Free scheme.
  • Trouble for someone when the auditors get to work.
  • An unhappy Minister.

Now, TEC has never paid much heed to the compliance load on providers and students, as people, probably don’t figure much in TEC’s consideration. The misallocation of tax payers’ funds, on the other hand could lead to reviews and tears before bedtime.

What do you think?