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Finance – ‘a barrier to higher education’

Friday 2 December 2022 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Education, National

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Finance – ‘a barrier  to higher  education’
University of the South Pacific's (USP) Cook Islands campus director Dr Debbie Futter-Puati with businesswoman and cultural expert Jackie Tuara at the Cook Islands National Feminist Forum at the Edgewater Resort and Spa on Wednesday. 22113007

Finance is a key barrier to many who want to complete their tertiary level education. The director of the University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Cook Islands campus, Dr Debbie Futter-Puati says a student loan facility or free education could change this.

Futter-Puati was part of a panel at the Cook Islands National Feminist Forum held at The Edgewater Resort and Spa on Wednesday.

A student loan facility or free tertiary education will benefit the nation for generations to come and is an investment worth making, says Futter-Puati.

She says higher education benefits women, their families and their social economic status as women are more likely to earn a higher salary after a tertiary education and act as a role model to families.

“We are impacting generations by taking the step.”

However, one of the key barriers to tertiary education is finance and this is an issue in the Cook Islands.

“We need a student loan facility or free tertiary education because it benefits the nation for generations to come and I believe it is an investment worth making,” Futter-Puati said.

She said when government’s free fees initiative during the Covid-19 pandemic was initiated, USP Cook Islands had an almost 500 per cent increase in student intake.

“Because the one barrier that was holding people back from tertiary education was the money. Those people want to study and don’t want to leave their homes, their country, they have responsibilities. Most of the USP students are women, mothers and working mothers.

“It’s imperative we keep a tertiary institution in the country and have accessibility to tertiary education for any woman who wants to stay home and study.”

Futter-Puati said free education or a student loan facility could facilitate the completion of students’ studies quicker instead of taking some 20 years to complete – if they are doing one paper per semester due to lack of funding.

She said finance issues could also result in students losing the momentum of learning as courses drag on.

A student loan facility offering full time studies could enable students to graduate within three years and allow them to give back to the community through their new skills and learnings, said Futter-Puati.

“If we haven’t got free tertiary education then we are going to constantly bring expatriate workers.”

Speaking on Early Childhood Education (ECE), she said: “The skills they learn from their early childhood settings can set them up for life.”

She added that if ECE is not taught right, nothing would be right.