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Student Debt Warning Set To Arrive 16 Years Early

21 June 2002

Auditor-General’s Student Debt Warning Set To Arrive 16 Years Early

Two years ago, the Auditor-General noted that “by 2024 approximately 17.5% of the working age population will be repaying a student loan.” (Report of the Controller and Auditor-General on the Student Loan Scheme, 2000).

Earlier this week, the Aotearoa Tertiary Students’ Association (ATSA) announced that nearly one in ten of all New Zealanders already have a Student Loan. This is equal to over 13% of the current working age population (people aged between 15-64).

ATSA President, Julie Pettett, announced today that “if nothing is done to arrest the growth of this absurd scheme, we estimate that the Solicitor-General’s 17.5% prediction will confront the New Zealand working population by the end of 2008, fully sixteen years ahead of forecast.”

By 2019, when total student debt will exceed $19 billion, ATSA has calculated that nearly one in every four (23.4%) of the working age population will be grappling with their own personal Student Loan debt. “We cannot afford to mortgage the future lives of so many people because of a short-sighted unwillingness to face this scheme,” Pettett said. “This does not just affect students – it is a national scandal. Unless the next government has the gumption to honestly face the issue quickly, New Zealand society will be confronted by a problem of monstrous size.”

ATSA makes no apology for labelling student debt a time bomb. “People must be made aware of the enormity of the problem,” Pettett stated. “The media has a responsibility to look closely at the wider economic impact of student financial support. Only when the debate becomes open and honest can we hope to see real movement towards a sustainable solution.”

ATSA estimates that nearly one third of Student Loan borrowing is used for basic living expenses. “The first step towards chaining the debt would be the introduction of a Universal Student Allowance,” Pettett said. “We applaud the Alliance for proposing such a system in their tertiary education policy.”

“If the next government moved towards the introduction of a Universal Student Wage, it would significantly defuse the danger of Student Loan debt exploding in the very near future,” Pettett concluded.


Note: The sources and methods used to calculate the estimations in this release are available on request from ATSA. Email: research@atsa.org.nz

For further comment, contact: Julie Pettett, ATSA National President Cell phone 029 939 1417

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