Student Loans Set To Become THE Election Issue
Student loans will be the major issue in this years election campaign according the Acting President of the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association Chris Hipkins. The total amount owed under the Student Loan Scheme will exceed $3 billion before the end of 1999 and if changes aren't made that figure could inflate to nearly $5 billion before the next election in 2002.
"Students are being asked to shoulder a totally unreasonable burden through the Student Loan Scheme. It is not uncommon for students to owe up to $30,000 or more, that's a heck of a burden to start your working life with," Hipkins said.
Figures released earlier in the week by the Alliance show that students with the highest level of debt are choosing to go overseas rather than face the prospect of huge repayments as soon as they start work.
"For students who are serious about paying back their loan, and I believe the overwhelming majority are, it's a huge commitment to pay off $30,000 in any reasonable period of time, especially when the government keeps charging higher than market interest rates on them. This will naturally impact on other decisions they are going to make, such as whether to buy a house, start a family, or move overseas," Hipkins said.
"No interest on loans while studying, a decrease in the overall interest rate, and a one year stand down after study before you have to start making repayments are all good starting points for positive improvement. But they are only a drop in the bucket, the real problem is that diminishing government funding has sent tuition fees skyrocketing. Until the tertiary sector is funded sufficiently student loan debt will continue to spiral out of control," Hipkins said.
VUWSA Campaigns Officer Yadana Saw said the general election this year would be a good opportunity for political parties to lay their cards on the table and tell students what they intend to do to address the loans issue. "We want all of the political parties to demonstrate a serious commitment to tertiary education and to students," Saw said.
"Over the next few months we will be reminding people that changes the government has made to tertiary education have resulted in students accumulating an incredible amount of debt and that they can do something about that with their vote," Saw said.
Victoria University's Education Action Group will be participating in a National Week of Action to raise public awareness about the student loans issue. There will be a rally in Civic Square at lunchtime on Wednesday 4th August and leaflets with further information will be available.
|As at 30 August 1998 the breakdown of loan borrowings was:|
|Range of outstanding balance||Total number of borrowers|
|$1 to $5,999||93,750|
|$6,000 to $9,999||44,814|
|$10,000 to $19,999||51,082|
|$20,000 to $29,999||18,894|
|$30,000 to $39,999||6,738|
|$40,000 to $49,999||2,001|
|$50,000 or more||663|
|Projected Total Student Loan Debt: ($B)|
more information contact:
Chris Hipkins, Acting President
473 8566 or 025 28 777 51