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Labour’s boasting cannot bury student loan crisis

8 March 2005

Labour’s boasting cannot bury student loan crisis

The figures on student debt released by the Labour-led Government today are no reason to boast, the Green Party says.

“Labour can boast all it likes about its tertiary education policy, but the facts about student debt contained in the Education Ministry’s report are very clear and very concerning,” Green Tertiary Education Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos said.

“In 1999, when this government came to power promising to make tertiary education affordable, the average student loan balance was $11,665. Five years later, under Labour’s watch, it had ballooned by 24 per cent to $14,424. In the same period, the total amount of student debt more than doubled from $2.89 billion to $5.96 billion.

“While the highest earning graduates can repay their debt in a reasonable time, some people have made no progress in repaying their loan after ten years.”

“These are very clear signs that while the Government has taken some baby steps in the right direction – such as freezing interest on loans and establishing fee maxima – they have been ineffective at stopping the inexorable rise in student debt.

“This failure has concerning consequences for the future of our country. Students having to borrow while studying often need to work long hours in part-time jobs. This prevents them from giving adequate attention to their studies, to the detriment of the quality of our graduates.”

The Green Party is proposing a suite of solutions this election year to tackle the student debt problem, including the establishment of a universal student allowance, a debt write-off scheme for graduates who stay in New Zealand to work .and an initial cap of fees at $1,500.

“Rather than the window-dressing proposed by Labour, we’re offering ideas that would make a real difference to students’ lives.”


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