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Graduates will reject National's overtures

21 July 2005

Graduates will reject National's overtures

It is sadly ironic that the very party that created New Zealand's student debt crisis is now claiming that it is the party to solve it, the Green Party says.

"Having driven hundreds of thousands of young Kiwis off the cliff of debt, National is now proposing to have a few nurses at the bottom armed with plasters, ," Green Tertiary Education Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says. "It is nothing more than a token gesture, which graduates will see right through.

"New Zealand's graduates won't be fooled into thinking National has any real solutions to student debt. During nine dark years of National rule in the 1990s, the student loan scheme was established, fees rose to from a few hundred dollars to over $4,000 a year, $5 billion of debt was racked up and for the first time ever food banks popped up on campuses as students struggled to make ends meet.

"National must be hoping that graduates have very short memories. Having got our twenty- and thirty-somethings into this mess, National is now saying is has the answers to get them out. People are smarter than that and will see this for what it is: a gimmick to make young voters forget about National's shady past."

National's proposal to offer tax rebates to graduates repaying their loans was a band-aid solution to a much more serious problem than Don Brash wants to acknowledge, Nandor says.

"The main causes of debt are high student fees and a lack of access to student allowances. National has proposed nothing to address these drivers of debt, and instead is offering very limited assistance to those already in debt. If this is the extent of National's student support policy, then the effect will simply be ever-increasing debt levels, with all the negative social and economic consequences that brings.

Nandor says that, if National were really serious about tackling indebtedness amongst graduates, it would offer a student debt write-off scheme, coupled with policies to control the level of student fees and widen the eligibility for student allowances.

"The Greens are the only party with a comprehensive student support policy, which tackles both the causes of student debt and the debt levels of graduates. We propose stabilising, then reducing, student fees, progressively extending access to student allowances and implementing a student debt write-off scheme so that for every year a graduate works in New Zealand, a year of their debt is written off.

"If Don Brash really wants to appeal to graduates and address the student debt crisis, he should have a look at these Green policies."

ENDS


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