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Alliance calls for abolition of student loans

Alliance Party

Sunday 27 January 2008

Alliance Party calls for abolition of student loan scheme

Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray says the only way to deal with student debt is to scrap the current scheme altogether.

"Fees and student loans have to go, that's all there is to it. No amount of tinkering, along the lines proposed by National and Labour, will fix the scheme because it simply doesn't work. It never has worked."

Ms Murray says large amounts of taxpayer money are paid into tertiary training, with fees representing only a small proportion of tertiary institutions income.

"Unfortunately the loans represent a huge cost to students, especially in the early part of their working lives, when they are likely to be faced with an overpriced housing market and perhaps the costs of a new family as well. So much so that many of them are leaving the country – for good. This is a complete waste of the taxpayers money that paid for the bulk of their training."

Ms Murray says research carried out on behalf of the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA) shows that average student debt is over 147 percent higher than in 1998, with average student debt now reaching a stunning $28,838.

She says the Alliance Party would immediately abolish both tertiary fees and the loan scheme.

"The Alliance would replace loans with a new scheme that would see everyone in tertiary study receive the equivalent of the unemployment benefit. Existing student debt would have to be written off – there is no other fair way of doing it."

Ms Murray says this is not necessarily a big deal as student debt levels are so high, many people will not get their loan paid off in their lifetime anyway – especially if they are in low paid employment, take time out to raise their families, or accrue interest because they go overseas for a time.

"It is widely acknowledged that New Zealander needs a highly skilled work force to compete in the global economy. This means everyone needs access to tertiary training not just once but perhaps several times over their working life to keep their skills current and relevant."

The Alliance believes that free, high quality and easily accessible tertiary education paid for through progressive taxation is the only way to achieve this for the bulk of the population.

Ms Murray says this is a sound investment that will not only benefit the individual students, but will be repaid to the taxpayer through increased tax take from the higher salaries earned by our skilled workforce and availability of a pool of high quality staff for our schools, hospitals, other public services, and businesses.


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