About the SIT Zero Fees Scheme

SIT’s Zero Fees Scheme allows:

  • New Zealand citizens
  • New Zealand residents/permanent residents living in New Zealand during their study
  • Australian citizens residing in New Zealand during their study

the opportunity to study approved programmes without paying tuition fees.

The Zero Fees Scheme applies only to the base tuition fee attached to each eligible programme of study. Direct Material Costs apply. Direct material costs are course specific costs, for example: uniform, texts, tools, activities and NZQA charges. Direct material fees (and programme fees in the case of a student’s Zero Fees status being withdrawn) are payable before commencement of a course, and may be paid by the student or via StudyLink (eg. Student Loan).

For international fees, including Zero Fees English, click here.

Eligible programmes

Programmes that are offered under Zero Fees Scheme are:

  • Tertiary Education Commission funded (you must be a New Zealand citizen, New Zealand resident/permanent resident or Australian citizen living in New Zealand during your course of study, to receive Tertiary Education Commission funding)
  • of 12 or more weeks in duration
  • studied either full time or part time (Part time students must demonstrate that they intend to complete the qualification to be eligible to apply for the Zero Fees Scheme)
  • leading to a national or local qualification.

Zero Fees terms and conditions

In order to retain Zero Fees Scheme eligibility, students undertaking a programme of study at SIT must:

  • Demonstrate satisfactory academic progress as defined in the requirements of the course or programme of study
  • Maintain satisfactory attendance - at least 80% (or otherwise specified by programme) attendance (not applicable for SIT2LRN)
  • Adhere to the programme's specific rules and requirements
  • Adhere to the provisions of SIT’s Student Code of Conduct

Breach of conditions or withdrawal from a programme may affect students' future entitlement to the Zero Fees Scheme.

All matters relating to student rights and responsibilities will be handled in accordance with SIT’s Policies and Procedures, as outlined in the Student Handbook.

The Zero Fees Scheme continues to be available as a result of present Government policies. Although not foreseen, SIT is unable to guarantee ongoing Zero Fees provision should for any reason present funding arrangements and/or Government policies be reviewed.

SIT’s refund policy for domestic students is available here.

SIT policy on charging GST to Non-residents undertaking SIT2LRN programmes of study

The SIT Zero Fee Scheme is designed first and foremost for Southlanders and then for New Zealand Citizens and Permanent Residents living and working in New Zealand (referred to as Domestic Students).

We expect all SIT students (including SIT2LRN students) to be resident in New Zealand and have designed our financial processes based on this. Hence, we charge GST on all our Fees for our Domestic Students and we enrol over 12,000 Domestic Students per annum.

SIT2LRN offer internet platform based training programmes which may attract students based offshore. In order for us to Zero Rate the Fee, we have to ensure that the student is offshore for the whole duration of the paper or programme. SIT is not able to set up a robust system to monitor such an activity and do not consider this our core business. Therefore GST will be charged on all fees unless the student wishes to be specifically designated as an International Student.

Should a student wish to enrol as an International Student through SIT2LRN the International Fee will be calculated at NZ$100 per credit (GST Zero Rated). This means that a 15 Credit paper will be priced at NZ$1,500 (GST Zero Rated) and a full time programme of 120 credits will be priced at NZ$12,000 (GST Zero Rated).

The story behind the Zero Fees Scheme

In the late 1990s, Invercargill's population was declining, property prices were extremely low and there were limited opportunities for our young people. SIT’s chief executive officer Penny Simmonds proposed a radical idea for community funders to kick start a free fees scheme by contributing $7.2 million over three years to effectively pay students’ tuition fees. All students would have to pay was their material costs – for things like uniforms or textbooks. The expected boost in the student population meant that, after that time the scheme would become self-funding. 

The main contributors to the Zero Fees Scheme were:

  • Community Trust of Southland - $3.45million
  • Invercargill Licensing Trust - $1.73million
  • Invercargill City Council - $1.21million
  • Southland District Council - $0.35million

During the first year of the scheme, SIT needed to attract 40 per cent more students in order for it to be viable. Economic forecasts suggested that, should the scheme succeed, during the first year alone Invercargill would enjoy an extra $11.5 million in business turnover, while the city’s GDP would increase by $6.7 million. Overall, the regional economy would get a $19 million boost after the first year and up to $30 million by the end of the third.

Reality proved even better. Far more students took up the offer than anticipated, they spent more money and many were older. They moved from up north and brought their spouses and children south with them. The 46 per cent increase in numbers saw the roll leap from 1781 equivalent full-time students in 2000 to almost 2600 in 2001. There was $25 million additional business turnover, $13.9 million increase in the city’s GDP and the number of fulltime equivalent jobs rose to 266, more than double the anticipated 113.

By 2010, SIT’s total economic impact was estimated to be in excess of $210 million. The success of the Zero Fees Scheme has also meant SIT has been able to keep fees for international students low. The Zero Fees Scheme has even been extended to international students, in the form of the Zero Fees English programme.