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Free education becoming an economic imperative

28 January 2005

Hon Jim Anderton MP, Progressive Leader

Free tertiary education becoming an economic imperative

If we don't make significant moves towards making tertiary education free New Zealand is going to be left behind in the global competition for skilled and talented workers, Progressive Leader, Jim Anderton told an audience of student leaders at the NZUSA annual meeting this week.

"The level of student debt and the fees students have to pay are serious social and economic issues. This is, in effect, a tax on learning in a period when we need to remove as many barriers to further education as we can.

"Because of the ageing and shrinking populations in the developed world, Europe and Japan in particular, there will be a massive shortage of skilled labour in the coming generation. Many countries are already actively attracting skilled and talented workers from other nations, including New Zealand. These are workers we can not afford to lose.

"New Zealand is a country far removed from our major markets and because of that, New Zealand's economic future depends on our developing innovative ideas into high value products and services. To do this we urgently need more well educated, innovative and lateral thinking people in our workforce.

"Free tertiary education is fast becoming an economic imperative. It is an imperative that France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland understand, and one that we need to catch up with. Tertiary education is costly, but if we don't invest in it then our children's generation and generations to come will pay when we get left behind the rest of the world.

"The debt burden on our students means a whole generation are already putting off buying a house, having children and some are even leaving to go overseas. We can not afford to ignore this problem. We must make significant moves towards free tertiary education now," Jim Anderton said.

The Progressive policy is for free education from early childhood to tertiary level. Incremental steps towards that goal include our student debt policy of paying the loan debt for students, for three years, if they stay and work in New Zealand after graduation.


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