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April 26, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Student Loans Get a Re-Shuffle

Few Students Re-Joyce*

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce keeps messing with students, drip feeding changes, and keeping us all unsettled with what the hell he is going to say next.

Joyce last week outlined changes that may include placing time limits and minimum pass rates on loan eligibility, increasing fees on expensive courses and cutting the number of courses available at tertiary institutions.

Access to the student loan scheme may be tightened.

“With the removal of interest you have to have other measures in place just to make sure that people don’t take advantage of the student loan scheme,” Joyce told 3 News last week.

Joyce is also determined to lift course completion rates, which he says is “a significant problem in some areas”.

Students will be expected to pass over half their courses in a certain time period to receive the interest-free student loan. This is aimed at preventing failing students accumulating large amounts of debt.

The government plans to place a six or seven year time limit on how long undergraduates are eligible for the interest free student loan.

Joyce believes this limit is one most students “would not have any trouble with”. Questions have been raised about how this limit will affect part time and older students.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh says the University’s primary concern is that students receive a quality education. To ensure this happens, he says institutions delivering that education need to be “funded at an appropriate level”.

Walsh says the government’s decision to link funding to student performance will make universities, as well as students, more accountable for student success.

“We need to ensure there are no unintended consequences—for instance it is vital that all students, regardless of socio-economic background are given a chance to succeed,” Walsh says.

“It must be acknowledged that a student who is taking six to seven years to complete an undergraduate degree is making very slow progress. Current Victoria University policy does not allow this in any case.”

VUWSA President Max Hardy says the changes are disappointing.

“When it comes to tertiary education, one size doesn’t fit all. Every student is different and is taking a different journey in their education—not everyone is fresh out of high school and just in it for three years.

“The Government needs to be addressing the underfunding of Universities, not increasing already high tuition fees,” he says.

“Instead we will see everyone paying more for the same qualifications, continuing to graduate with significant debt and wondering why they should stay [in New Zealand] at all.”
New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) Co-President David Do is also disheartened by the proposed changes.

“Limiting access to student loans to a set number of years could have significant negative impacts on part time and mature students and distance learners, who often combine family commitments with study and work responsibilities.”

Joyce’s proposed changes also include fee increases for expensive courses, but he says the increases “won’t be dramatic”.

Prime Minister John Key says the government will not do away with interest-free student loans, but there are indications the system will be made fairer.

*We know we’ve already used this but we don’t care. We stole it from Critic. It amuses us.

Latest Changes

  1. A time limit of 6 – 7 years will be placed on degree completion to receive the interest-free student loan.
  2. Fee increases will occur in more expensive courses such as medicine and dentistry.
  3. Students will be expected to pass half their courses to receive the interest-free student loan.
  4. 5 – 10 per cent of course funding will be linked to course completion rates.
  5. Australian and new residents will have to wait two years before being eligible for the student loan.
  6. 40 – 45 per cent of the 6000 qualifications available will be cut.
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