NZEI Te Riu Roa September 24, 2004
NZEI Backs Campaign On Student Loans
New Zealand’s largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, has endorsed the student loan campaign being run by the union’s Young Members, New Members and Students Network (YMN).
NZEI Te Riu Roa has 43,000 members working as teachers and principals in primary schools, teachers in early childhood education services, support staff in primary and secondary schools, special education staff in early childhood, primary and secondary schools and school advisers based at Colleges and Schools of Education.
This week 400 members attended the union’s Annual Meeting in Wellington and voted to support a student loan action plan adopted by YMN, which supports student teachers and beginning teachers who belong to the union. The action plan calls on the government to: Lower the interest rate on student loans. 7% is too high. No borrower should pay more than the rate of inflation. Raise the amount a borrower can earn before they have to start repaying their loan. The threshold is now $16,172 a year. That is too low and should be raised to the level of the average full-time wage Ensure repayments recognise how many dependants a borrower supports and how much they earn. Ensure that the amount a borrower is repaying is taken into account if they apply for welfare support
NZEI members at the Annual Meeting also voted in support of the New Zealand Students’ Association demand for the government to provide a living allowance for all students.
“Teachers starting their careers find their student loans are a huge financial burden,” says NZEI’s YMN spokesperson, Giarne Clarke.
“The cost of qualifying also deters people from studying to become teachers. That hurts the country’s children because people who would make great teachers are not entering the profession.”
NZEI members are particularly hard hit by student debt as 86% are women and studies show that it takes women an average of 28 years to pay for three years tertiary study, twice as long as it takes men. NZEI has calculated that a teacher with a $30,000 student loan would take 16 years to pay off the loan and pay $23,538 in interest “Total student debt is now more than $6 billion and 400,000 New Zealanders, 10% of the population, are saddled with a student loan. The government must take action to bring this debt monster under control,” says Giarne Clarke