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