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Mallard Ducks Student Loan Turkey

January 29 2005

Mallard ducks student loan turkey

Trevor Mallard's dismissal of a students' association survey revealing the average student now owes $18,726 shows his priorities lie in keeping the financiers happy at the expense of an entire generation.

Alliance President Jill Ovens says increasing student debt should concern the whole community.

"There has been a dramatic decline in home ownership among people in their 20s and 30s.

"Delays in starting a family are creating serious fertility problems, and for women students, there is the prospect of spending most of their working life trying to pay off the loan because of comparatively low wages."

She says it is disturbing that politicians who enjoyed relatively free education themselves, and who started their working lives debt-free, are not listening to what young people are saying about their struggle to survive while studying.

"Student fees are increasing, but it is the cost of daily living that is the main problem. Students' earning power during the Summer break is nothing like it was in Mallard's day when there were freezing works and large manufacturing sites, so they don't come back to university or polytech with a pot of money saved up."

Ms Ovens says that to earn enough money to live on while they are studying, students are forced to compete with low paid workers for jobs that have low hourly rates, and are often part-time or casual. The loss of penal rates means the weekly take-home pay can be very low even if long hours are worked.

"In my union work, I've been coming across students working over the Christmas break in rest homes for around $10 an hour. Some of them will continue this work during the academic year because otherwise they won't survive, but it means they will struggle to keep on top of their studies."

The Alliance says tertiary education is a public good and plays a vital role in New Zealand's social and economic future.

An Alliance Government would scrap tertiary fees at public tertiary institutions and provide adequate funding to cover essential costs such as staff salaries and libraries, Ms Ovens says.

The Alliance would give all students a universal student allowance based on an Unemployment Benefit set at a living wage and would wipe student debt by writing off all loans under the student loans scheme.

"As a starter, the independent living allowance should be restored."

Ms Ovens says it is nonsense to suggest that the allowance discriminates against others and therefore the allowance should be removed, as happened recently.

"Surely the answer is to make allowances available to all students."

-end-

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