Stu­dent loans change

Kapi-Mana News - - EDUCATION -

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.

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