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New Zealand’s collective student debt is approaching NZ$10 billion!!
Lets take a look at the cost of living for a student in Dunedin per week and get an idea of how crappy this situation is.
Weekly cost of living
Rent = $100 p/w
Energy, Internet and telephone = $75 p/w
Health = $20 p/w
Food = $100 p/w
Car = $80 p/w
Furnishings = $20 p/w
Clothing = $20 p/w
Social = $50 p/w
3 trips home per year = $30 p/w
Savings = $50 p/w
Stationary, computing and text books = $30 p/w
Student fees = $50 p/w + 40 hours p/w
TOTAL COST OF LIVING PER WEEK = $625 per week
Student allowance (if eligible) = $150 p/w
20 hours casual work @ $12 minimum per hour (resulting in a 60 hour week when combined with study time) = $240 p/w
TOTAL INCOME PER WEEK = $390 p/w (Gross!)
Weekly short fall of $235 per week. Totaling $12220 annually!!
So, let’s drop the car and savings… weekly short fall now = $105. Totaling $5460 short fall annually.
I guess we could keep chipping away at some of those weekly expenses.. who needs a social life, or trips home (or away), or health… and I guess they could work harder than 60 hours per week, or sacrifice some of that study time to work more, or find a job during the semester breaks to pay back some of that short fall (provided your landlord, food market, and all the others can stomach giving you credit until then. What about student fees? Let’s take a look at that…
Looking at student fee in relation to cost of course
A 3 year course at $12000.. what is the cost of running a course for 16 people per year? (Class sizes are one of the big reasons you would study at a Polytechnic btw.. imagine 350 people or more in a class, I struggle to see the value in university fees..)
Teacher @ $60 p/hr x 20 hrs p/w x 40 weeks = $48000 per year
Classroom and amenities = $4000 p/y
Internet and 16 computers = $32000 p/y
Other specialist learning resource fittings = $6000 p/y
Administration = $4000 p/y
Library = $6000 p/y
SUBTOTAL ANNUAL COURSE COSTS = $100 000
Less Government subsidy of around 70 – 80% = $30 000
Divided between 16 students = $1875 That’s less than half their fee!
(that subsidy figure needs checking.. it is really had to find)
Now, if we consider that in the breakdown of weekly student living costs – included in that is a computer and Internet. That might suggest that we could scale back our provision of such things (ignoring for now the fact that most students probably choose to forgo that cost in their struggle to survive here) and reduce the cost of the course considerably further (especially if I am out with that subsidy and course cost estimate).
But students would still be being forced into debt.
So what could we do in the way of free learning, fee education to afford more flexibility – save another $40 per week? And what could we do with other Government grant money to provide computers and Internet at affordable prices for students – save another $50 p/w? And what could we do with Open Educational Resources to reduce text books and library costs – save another $20 p/w? And what could we do with distance education so as to offer options for avoiding Dunedin costs of living – save another $100 p/w?
I don’t think we are thinking hard enough on what we can be doing to help address this serious social problem affecting the quality of learning in NZ. We have students who have little choice but to study and work 60 hour weeks, racking up and worrying about debt, and/or reducing their standard of living well below what I would call acceptable. I dare anyone to take a tour of rental properties in Dunedin.
In Australia, I felt quite connected in my profession – even though I was only in it for a similar amount of time 2001 – 2005. I was regularly on the phone with fella edubloggers, editing up the next wiki page, toying with new ideas, and being invited to join in talks all over the place, at conferences and stuff. Actually, I still get called across the ditch to talk at conferences, although the number is dropping. It seems my move to NZ, and taking a job inside an educational institution has distanced me from my Australian connections, but I can’t say that a sense of local connection has taken its place.
A technorati alert has introduced a link with John Vietch, a rare as hens teeth and not very prolific NZ blogger who is also dwelling on the widley acknowldged social distance, isolation and seeming disconnect in NZ culture:
…The problem behind the poor success rate on social networks is not in Ryze, Xing, Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s in our own heads and in the community. There is a lack of social permission in the community to be strongly involved in these networks…
Weak uptake of read write communications in NZ is not really a measure of the phenomenon that John is alluding to though. I’d say the phenomenon is widely recognised before considering the uptake of Internet, because the few local friends I do have here know that it is hard to make friends or make connections in NZ, especially southern NZ. There’s a reputation in Dunedin that to be successful in business here, its not so much who you know, but who your farthers farther knew! 🙂 I’m not sure how true that is, but its certainly not hard to strike up conversation about the strange and very subtle cultural phenomenon that evades words for me at the moment. And I should acknowledge my own cultural background as being different to here and so may be having an impact on any observation I try to make as well.
I have tried with varying degrees of success, but mostly failure to establish professional communication networks through Internet channels. The face to face and corridor talk still prevails however, and projects remain crippled by low numbers, reliance on physical meetings and poor coordination and reach.
John seems to have a lot more experience then I do working on this in NZ, and I wonder if he’ll continue to reflect on it over the coming days?
Will improved internet communications infrastructure in NZ (particularly southern NZ) necessarily translate into better uptake and use of the Internet? Will it generate a networked, more informed and perhaps more communal NZ? Or will a deep seeded sense of isolation prevent the extroverts within from reaching out and making new connections? Or will the migration of popular media and communications to the Internet (like Google Video and Youtube, Facebook and Beebo) effect a cultural change in NZ and help to undo the private and almost invisible restraint within Southern NZers?