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Government failing tertiary students

27 January 2005

Government failing tertiary students

The Greens are calling on the Government to immediately review its tertiary education policy in light of a new survey showing students' financial situations are deteriorating, putting their education in jeopardy.

The New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA) is this morning [Friday] releasing its three-yearly student income and expenditure survey. It shows that the amount of money students owe has spiralled out of control under Labour's watch.

"The student loan scheme is failing New Zealand's young and putting in jeopardy our intellectual future," Green Tertiary Education Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos said. "Student debt is up. Tuition fees are up. More and more students are working longer and longer hours to make ends meet, to the detriment of their studies.

"I am urging the Government to immediately review its tertiary education policy so that students might get some reprieve from the treadmill of debt on which they are currently sprinting."

The NZUSA survey illustrates that, under Labour's watch, tertiary students have become more indebted, crippled by rising tuition fees in spite of the Government's fee maxima policy. Among the almost 4,000 students surveyed, the average student loan has increased by 46 percent since 1998 (from $11,145 to $16,292), and the average tuition fees have increased by 61 percent (from $3,499 to $5,644).

"In 1999, Labour's credit card pledge was to make tertiary education affordable. In 2002, it was to keep tertiary education affordable. These figures show that Labour has not fulfilled either pledge.

"The Greens have offered positive solutions to the student debt crisis since 1997. The first step is to introduce a universal living allowance, at the level of the unemployment benefit, for all full-time students. The second step is to address fees by immediately capping them at $1,500 per year before progressively phasing the student fee system out entirely."

The NZUSA survey also found that the proportion of full-time students engaged in regular work during term time has increased from 41 percent to 67 percent in the last three years.

"How can students give their education the attention it deserves when more and more of them are working longer and longer hours just to make ends meet? The quality of our tertiary education must inevitably suffer."

ENDS

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