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Ogilvy: Govt owes students families an explanation

Ogilvy: Govt owes students, families an explanation

The Government's recently released discussion document on student loans and allowances is more than a year overdue and doesn't do what it was supposed to do, United Future Education spokesman Bernie Ogilvy says.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Ogilvy pointed out that the Minister of Tertiary Education, Steve Maharey, had promised in January last year that a discussion document on student support would be released in May of that year, and would canvass options for reform.

The document the Government released just two weeks ago simply summarises the current system of loans and allowances.

"Students and families expected much more from this review, but it's pretty clear that this is either a case of inaction or an attempt to dampen expectations of further change," Mr Ogilvy said.

"The Minister has said that moving to universal allowances and zero fees is simply not affordable, but if that's the case then where are the alternatives, because there are some serious inequities involved."

In highlighting some of the issues surrounding student allowances in Parliament yesterday, Mr Ogilvy asked the Minister why the student allowance scheme is based on the parental income of students up to the age of 25, when the same income testing is not applied to those under 25 who are on the dole.

"These young people might be just as reliant as students on parental support, and yet by comparison are getting money for nothing," he said.

He also pointed out that since the combined parental income threshold for allowances has remained at $50,000 since 1992, and it now excludes 40% of New Zealand households. As parental income increases beyond $28,000, the level of allowance abates until it reaches very small amounts for those students whose parents jointly earn more than $40,000.

Some students that would otherwise be ineligible for allowances are able to receive them because their parental income can be nullified through business involvement or family trusts, leaving a whole group of families in the middle who miss out altogether.

"The Government needs to take a serious look at this issue of parental income, and whether the student allowance system meets even basic criteria of fairness," Mr Ogilvy said.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Ogilvy spoke to the NZ Association of Private Education Providers and outlined policies United Future is developing to minimise student debt, including an extension of the bursaries grant to reward academic performance, and a government-assisted savings scheme to help families put money aside for their children's tertiary education.

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