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A Labour-Green Govt key to tackling student debt

26 July 2005

A Labour-Green Govt the key to tackling student debt crisis

The Green Party is applauding Labour's tertiary education policy and reminding Kiwis that only a Labour-Green Government will deliver real relief for students and graduates.

"We're heartened that Labour has listened to our concerns to offer relief for graduates crippled with debt and to students struggling to make ends meet," Green Tertiary Education Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.

"Early last month, the Greens put student debt on the election agenda with the launch of our student debt write-off scheme. It's great to see Labour now acknowledging that student debt is an important election for this campaign.

"Scrapping interest on student loans is a welcome first step. Many graduates are frustrated that, despite making loan repayments, their debt isn't getting any smaller. It's completely abhorrent that graduates have been charged interest on the money they borrowed in order to study, and it's a credit to this Government that it has finally remedied this injustice.

"However, scrapping interest won't, on its own, prevent some graduates from facing a lifetime of debt. Many graduates in low-paying jobs are faced with decades of debt repayments and are significantly disadvantaged as a result. Some mechanism, such as the Greens' debt write-off scheme, needs to be found to ensure that no graduates are still in debt decades after they finish studying."

Nandor says tertiary education would be a key battleground in the 2005 election.

"We'll be telling graduates up and down the country that, for real relief in paying off your debt, you need to elect a Labour-Green Government. It's essential to the prospect of real progress on the student debt issue that the Greens, and not NZ First, are negotiating the legislative priorities of a Labour-led Government.

"It's also important to point out the stark difference for students and graduates between a Labour-Green Government and a National-NZ First Government. While we'll put the interests of students and graduates front and centre, the Nats want a return to the 1990s when food banks flourished on our campuses and the concerns of our young people were completely ignored."

Nandor says Labour's commitment to ensuring that half of all students receive student allowances is also a welcome, bold move.

"The Greens believe no Kiwis should have to borrow in order to make ends meet while studying. That's why we've proposed a Universal Student Allowance, phased in over several stages. Labour's policy shows that it shares our concern about a lack of access to allowances being a key driver of student debt. While we'd like Labour to go further, this allowance-expanding policy is a very encouraging first step."


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