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Report reveals Labour's student debt shame

19 April 2005

International report reveals Labour's student debt shame

A new report comparing the affordability of tertiary education in fifteen OECD countries provides irrefutable proof that Labour is failing New Zealand's students, the Green Party says.

"Kiwi students are harder up than any of their counterparts around the world except the Japanese," Green Tertiary Education Nandor Tanczos said. "This report provides alarming proof that we are failing to provide the right conditions for our young people to learn without enormous economic hardship."

The report - released by the independent North American Education Policy Institute - uses six measures of affordability to compare tertiary education in 15 developed countries. New Zealand is ranked least-affordable or second-least-affordable under five of the six measures, and is ranked second-least-affordable when the six measures are combined.

The countries which offer more affordable tertiary education than New Zealand are Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, the US, and the UK.

The report completely undermines Labour's claim to be doing all it can to make tertiary education affordable, Nandor said.

"We have a government that came to power promising to make tertiary education affordable, yet New Zealand students are faced with harder financial struggles than students in all other Western countries. This is neither fair nor wise."

"The Government cannot afford to keep ignoring and denying the facts. Go around the campuses as I do and you will see that many students are facing real hardship and all New Zealanders will be worse off for that."

Nandor said the Greens advocated capping fees immediately at $1,500, instituting a universal student allowance set at the level of the unemployment benefit, and progressively writing-off the debt of graduates working in New Zealand .

"The long list of developed countries that have more affordable tertiary education than we do completely gazumps the argument that the country simply can't afford to make tertiary education cheaper for our young people. In fact, we cannot afford not to. Student debt is affecting fertility rates, migration rates, home ownership, urbanisation and career choice, to the detriment of all New Zealanders."

"Only last month, Education Minister Trevor Mallard was shouting from the rooftops that student fees were lower here than in Australia. Now that we have the proof that tertiary education is less affordable here than almost everywhere else in the developed world, the Greens will be increasing the pressure on the Government to pick up its act on student debt."

ENDS

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