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Maori Student Debt Hits $1 billion

23 November 2004

TE MANA ÂKONGA (INC.) National Mâori Tertiary Students’ Association

Maori Student Debt Hits $1 billion

Maori student debt is now over $1billion according to estimates from the Ministry of Education. After just twelve years of the government’s dreaded student loan scheme, Maori student debt is now greater than the $1billion fiscal cap on Treaty settlements.

“The Maori student debt crisis and its devastating effects are set to get even worse if the government does not take urgent action to reduce ballooning levels of Maori student debt” said Dr. Helen Potter, Kaitûhono for Te Mana Akonga. “The government should tackle student debt by immediately introducing a living allowance for all students and ensuring that student fees go down, not up.”

Student loans are a barrier to Maori participation in tertiary education, particularly for degree level courses and above which are high cost and result in better-paid jobs. Maori are effectively being fenced out of this group”.

Maori student debt is rising by an estimated $140 million and will reach $2 billion within just seven years.

“This massive debt flies in the face of current government policy that claims to prioritise making tertiary education accessible for all,” said Dr. Potter. “Participation by Maori in tertiary education is a double edged sword. While this contributes to a much-lauded decline in Mâori unemployment, these Mâori students trade a benefit for life-long debt”.

Te Mana Akonga are holding a Maori Student Debt Summit on Monday 6 December at Victoria University of Wellington in order to discuss and debate solutions to the debt crisis.

ENDS

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