Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Free Tertiary Education

As a former CFO (although we had no such lofty titles in them days) of a major Polytech, I saw the effects of dragging entire cohorts of unprepared entrants into the system, and the effects of undirected (bums-on-seats) funding at first hand, because I had to corral Budgets for the hot mess:

  • Foundation courses to get the worst cases literate, adequately numerate, and able to comprehend English. Pure overhead as little to no funding was directly available until well along in the piece.
  • The start of a proliferation of 'soft' courses designed expressly to mop up EFTS-based funding by getting Mo' Bums.
  • The realisation, very late in the piece, and I was out of it by then, that by seriously limiting Class Materials expenses and Teaching Hours, certain courses generated massive internal subsidies for Other Stuff. Because the EFTS funding took no account of Costs, only Bums, and was generous to a fault.
  • Students from privileged backgrounds who constantly applied for Hardship Grants despite rocking up in cars, expensive mountain bikes, or motorbikes. I did make some of them cry (sat on the Approving or in these cases Disapproving Committee). But a nice little rort.
  • It took a decade or two before the EFTS funding model (it came in in 1989/90 IIRC) started to distinguish Costly versus Costless courses. It was brought into sharp relief when one Polytech which shall remain nameless, dished out a CD to the students. That was the entire course cost....but the EFTS fundling even on the lower scales was only a little south of $10K per Bum.
  • Then Degree courses started to come in (why? because the EFTS funding per Degreed Bum was much higher), so we saw Degrees in Naturopathy and Diplomas in AromaTherapy start to proliferate to take advantage. That did not last long because they were so Luminously Bonkers. But the issue was that they could Start in the first place.
  • The race for funding also pitted institutions against each other, as they vied for the same student base, and duplicated, often badly, courses run better elsewhere.
  • The Good Times effectively came to an end with EFTS limits per study category, directed funding for certain institutions, and incentives about Cooperation to cut out the hideous duplication and waste that was apparent. The result was TEC, which now (I understand, far away from the game now) exerts an Iron Fist over who offers What, to Whom, and at what Cost.

But I bet TEC won't have much of a Xmas Break. Because our idealistic crew, shopping for the Youf Vote as always, has perhaps taken us right back to the Old Schemozzle. I'd put a bob each way on the fact that many of the New Starry-eyed Entrants to Tertiary as a result of the massive incentives now offered, will need just as much Pastoral Care to get them Fit to Teach, as PT's Housing tenants are gonna get to sort their appalling lifestyle choices.


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