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National’s debt policy ‘ambulance at cliff bottom'

National’s debt policy ‘ambulance at bottom of the cliff’

National’s recent policy announcement to write-off student debt in an effort to address medical workforce shortages in hard-to-staff-areas may provide welcome relief for those lucky few who benefit, however thousands of other skilled graduates will be forced to continue battling with significant debt.

“Throughout the country, we have workforce shortages covering numerous industries, which impact negatively on the economy, but National’s new policy ignores all of these. Various national sector groups have voiced concern at workforce shortages and highlighted that student debt is a key factor, yet National appears to have either not heard or simply doesn’t care,” said Liz Hawes, Co-President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

“Such short-sighted policy is surprising given National’s apparent concerns at the loss of skilled workers. This policy is so narrow it will do nothing to bring most of them back and neither will it prevent the majority leaving in the first place”, said Hawes. “The lack of depth and consistency shows National’s support for indebtedness and high-cost education, and a distinct lack of acknowledgement of the negative effects this is having on New Zealanders”.

“Debt relief needs to go hand in hand with prevention. Any medical professional can tell you that – treating the symptoms isn’t going to fix the problem; you also need to address the cause,” said Hawes. “High debt is caused by lack of student living allowances and high fees. Disappointingly, National’s new policy ignores these root causes of the debt affliction facing New Zealanders and has gone for the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ approach with limited debt relief for just a select few”, concluded Hawes.

Students and graduates are left looking elsewhere for real tertiary education initiatives and policy that will finally put an end to borrowing in the first place and genuinely assist the hundreds of thousands who are already struggling with existing student debt.


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