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Tertiary fee rises crippling our future

Labour
2000 web siteLabour Leader Helen Clark today issued alarming new data on the extent of tertiary fee rises, and warned of a crippling burden for students if National and Act ever got to expand their user-pays, tax-slashing agenda.

"Under nine years of National, average tertiary fees have risen a staggering 205.4 per cent - from $1250 in 1991 to $3817 this year," Helen Clark said.

"And if Act ever got to implement its policy of no increases in expenditure for tertiary education, within three years fees would be averaging $8079 if one assumes that costs would continue to rise at the same rate they have in recent years.

"This would be a devastating price to pay for tax cuts, and would put tertiary education beyond the reach of many middle-income New Zealand families. These fees are a stealth tax which imperils our future.

"Even under National, free of the influence of Act, fees would be likely to continue spiralling upwards.

"If funding was maintained at the same proportion as now, fees would rise under National in the next three years from an average of $3817 to $5077, a 33 per cent increase.

"The frightening influence of Act on a right-wing government would see students having to borrow even more money at commercial rates of interest to cope with increasing fees, as Act's freeze on additional funding kicked in.

"The student debt burden currently stands at more than $3 billion. Based on answers to parliamentary questions, Labour calculates that that figure would increase to $4.8 billion by the end of the first term of any National-Act government.

"Under Act's approach, a student doing a three year course would have had to borrow an extra $4262 just to cover increasing fees. National's formula, even without Act, would have that same student having to borrow an extra $1263.

"These are alarming figures and they represent a massive roadblock in our drive towards having a well educated and skilled workforce.

"It is totally irresponsible for Act and National to hold out the carrot of tax cuts without explaining that it would mean people paying far more for vital services like education.

"With Labour in government, full time and other low income students will not pay any interest on their loans while they are studying, and their loan repayment terms will be eased.

"Labour is also committed to first stabilising, and then lowering, tertiary fees. We want to do that because Labour believes that nothing makes a greater contribution to equality of opportunity than education," Helen Clark said.

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