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Loan Changes Remove Barriers To Poor Students

The Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education), Steve Maharey, today announced further changes to the student loan scheme to benefit low-income part time students.

The income threshold at which part-time students qualify for a full interest write-off will rise from $14,768 to $24,596, effective from 1 January 2000. The Government announced in December that from this year all full-time full-year and other low-income students will have their student loan interest written off while they are studying. Today's announcement increases the income that part-time students are able to earn while still qualifying for the interest write-off. The Ministry of Education forecasts that 97,000 students will enrol for full year part time study in 2000.

"The Government knows that for New Zealand to become a knowledge society we must increase access to tertiary education. In stark contrast to the previous government we do recognise that the cost of getting a decent education in recent years has been too high.

"I know that beneficiaries and others on low incomes are often put off studying because they fear getting into debt. Education is the key to opening the door to future opportunities and this Government believes in giving all New Zealanders opportunity.

"The interest write-off threshold for part-time students has been set at $24,596 because it equates to the level of earned income at which a working sole parent's Domestic Purposes Benefit abates away. This means that virtually no beneficiary, whether in receipt of earned income or not, will face interest on their student loan while they are studying.

"We are determined to keep faith with New Zealanders. Cutting the cost of tertiary education was one of Labour's core commitment card pledges.

"The Government has decided to make the change at this time because we want students and their parents to be clear about what costs they will face before they begin classes this academic year," Mr Maharey said.

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