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Internet Mana Outlines Free Tertiary Education Plan

MEDIA RELEASE
September 12, 2014

STRICTLY EMBARGOED TO 10AM, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

Internet Mana Outlines Free Tertiary Education Plan

If Free Tertiary Education was treated as a higher priority than tax cuts, and made one of the priorities for new spending, it could be delivered immediately, according to Internet MANA.

Internet MANA has released the details of its Free Tertiary Education policy which it says is aimed at increasing New Zealand’s knowledge base without crushing students, parents and graduates under a mountain of debt.

Leaders Laila Harré and Hone Harawira say the policy will immediately stop the growth of student debt, which now stands at $14.232 billion.

Around 725,000 people currently carry a debt. Some 15% of students are estimated to live with absolute financial distress.

The Party is promising fee-free education on public institutions and a universal student allowance. It will provide some immediate debt relief by increasing the earnings threshold that triggers compulsory repayments. Internet MANA will also write off debt for those on parental leave for up to a year at the rate they would have repaid it if they had been earning.

A summer jobs programme will be established to meet the shortfall in employment that impacts on student wellbeing right through the year.

Internet MANA has tagged funds to debt forgiveness.

“We will develop the details of a debt forgiveness programme for graduates with the resources of government and full public engagement,” said the leaders.

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“Our country’s future economic, cultural and social wellbeing will depend on our knowledge base and our ability to innovate in all fields of action. Debt is dragging people down.

“Free tertiary education does not cost more than user pays. It transfers the cost from individual students and their families to the wider community.
“Graduates with higher earning power then help the next generation to learn through progressive taxation. Their increased skills improve the productivity and profitability of our businesses. That is the nature of the social contract we are recreating. It has been proven before.

“To fully-fund course fees, introduce a universal student allowance, and progressively write-off existing student debt would cost less than the amount that National has indicated will be available for tax cuts from 2017.”

Together with poverty elimination, the policy would be a priority for it in post-election discussions and wider campaigns.

“We do not have to trade off Free Tertiary Education against other important things. We have set out many options for funding which together provide many times the amount that would be needed for Free Tertiary Education.”

KEY FREE TERTIARY EDUCATION POLICY POINTS:

No fees

• No fees for study in public tertiary institutions and wananga
• No fees in Maori PTEs that are providing quality courses where wananga are not present as a Treaty partnership responsibility of the Crown
• Immediate review of the funding of private tertiary institutions – with the intention of removing fees for institutions which are meeting needs for educationally disadvantaged groups/providing training in skill shortage areas and are not in competition with public providers.

Universal student allowance, Training Incentive Allowance and summer work

• Removal of the parental income test for student allowance and review the level of the student allowance and access to add-on allowances to eliminate student hardship
• Restore student allowance for post-graduate students
• Include student allowance rate in comprehensive review of the level of welfare payments and the signalled exploration of change to the tax and welfare relationship through a Universal Basic Income
• Reinstate the Training Incentive Allowance
• Brand new summer jobs programme for students, including opportunities to gain experience in the industries and services they are interested in entering and allowing them to offer their developing knowledge and skills to communities

Reducing existing debt burden

• No interest on existing loans
• Increase the threshold for the commencement of repayments
• Debt repayment by the Government on behalf of borrowers on parental leave under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act at their average rate of repayment for the 12 months prior to taking leave
• Develop a comprehensive loan forgiveness programme starting in 2017 for those with existing debt

Costing and Funding is described in full in the released policy: FREE TERTIARY EDUCATION POLICY

ENDS

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