Parents angry after Government scraps unpaid NCEA fees

Parents who paid NCEA fees for their children have responded angrily to the Government's decision to scrap all historic unpaid fees.

The fees date back to when NCEA was set up 17 years ago. As a result 150,000 people will receive NCEA credits they missed out on - mostly because their parents couldn't afford to pay.

However it's led to a backlash on social media.

Eighteen-year-old tertiary students Aimee Hobbs and Sian Donaldson have parents who struggled financially when they were in high school. Hobbs got a job and paid the $76 in fees herself.

"I got a letter saying I've got to pay it by like tomorrow - and I was like crap! So I scrabbled some money together - I could do that but not everyone can," she told Newshub.

Donaldson's parents could pay - but only just.

"My teacher talked to me and said 'Sian, you haven't paid this, you need to talk to your parents about it'. It was only me and a few other kids who hadn't paid so I found that embarrassing," Donaldson says.

While these two were lucky, more than 150,000 students over the last 17 years have missed out on credits or entire qualifications.

The government's already scrapped NCEA fees, but the Education Minister says it's also writing off historic unpaid fees so past students can have their qualifications recognised.

"Schooling in NZ is supposed to be free. Cost should not be a barrier," Chris Hipkins says.

Newshub spoke to one students whose debt has been written off and he's now been awarded NCEA Level 3. He didn't want to appear on camera because he still feels shame and embarrassment that his parents couldn't afford to pay. Luckily he was able to attend his chosen course with only Level 2.

Principals are overjoyed with the Government's move.

"It will eliminate what has been a hurdle in gaining employment or entry to a tertiary institution," says Aotea College principal Kate Gainsford.

But many on Facebook disagree.

"This is a bit of a kick in the teeth for all parents and caregivers that do the right thing," one person said.

Another said: "Damn, wish I'd never paid my fees and been a responsible parent".

And: "So what message does this send? Don't pay your fees and you'll be fine? What a joke".

NZQA is now contacting students it has details for to tell them their qualifications are now being formally recognised.