Student loans change
Cuts to student allowances are going ahead despite higher loan repayments and fewer students borrowing.
The cuts mean post- graduate students are no longer eligible for the government- funded weekly allowance and no exemptions will be made to undergraduates on long programmes, over 200 weeks.
The repayment rate for all students had also increased from 10 to 12 per cent.
The Government announced the student loan scheme changes in its Budget last year, amid outcry and student protests.
However, statistics released by the Education Ministry for 2011/2012 showed the total number of student loan borrowers had declined since 2010.
In 2011 there were 207,330 students with a loan, a decrease of 2.4 per cent which the ministry attributed to the recession.
Last year $ 876.5 million was received in loan repayments by Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development, $ 75m more than 2011.
‘‘ The recession significantly increased the number of borrowers in the scheme in 2009 and 2010, as fewer available jobs encouraged more people to become students,’’ the annual report said.
‘‘The reduction in the number of people participating in tertiary education in 2011, as the labour market gradually strengthened and in response to the movement of the birth bubble through the youth popu- lation, has led to a drop in the numbers borrowing.
‘‘Policy changes in Budgets 2009 and 2010 – especially the introduction of an academic performance requirement on borrowers, changes to eligibility rules for New Zealand permanent residents and changes to the entitlements for part- time students – may have had an impact on eligibility as well.’’
Labour Tertiary Education spokesman Grant Robertson said the impact of the cuts would be felt by poorer communities the most.
‘‘Thousands of students, mostly from low income backgrounds, will no longer have support to do postgraduate qualifications.
‘‘Education should not just be for those lucky enough to have deep pockets.’’
Robertson said the Government had made a short-sighted move in limiting student allowances to four year programmes.
‘‘A recent survey of post-graduate students showed that nearly 40 per cent of them would not be able to undertake study because of the abolition of allowances, with many looking to head overseas,’’ he said.
Tertiary Education minister Steven Joyce said New Zealand had the most generous student support system in the world.
‘‘The whole idea that it would be less expensive and send people to study in Australia is ludicrous,’’ he said.
Australian fees are higher than in New Zealand.