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July 28, 2014 | by  | in News |
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No Joy From Joyce

Two weeks ago, Salient published an exclusive news story, titled ‘Students ReJoyce’, detailing Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce’s decision not to follow through with cuts to university funding that he had been considering. Grant Robertson, MP for Wellington Central and Associate Tertiary Education Spokesman for Labour, wrote the following op-ed for Salient in response.

There was coffee on the keyboard last week when I read the headline in Salient suggesting students had something to ‘ReJoyce’ about because National had decided not to put interest back on Student Loans or course costs or further reduce lifetime limits for Student Allowances.

It’s a bit like being to be delighted because your leg is being cut off at the ankle rather than the knee. The truth is that National and Steven Joyce have cut Student Loans and Allowances in every single Budget since they got into office in 2008. Maybe they did not go ahead with some – but what they did go with has caused damage.

Perhaps the worst example is for postgraduate students. They are no longer eligible for Student Allowances. This has meant students, like one I have been working with from Victoria University, simply have to quit their study. This single mother is trying to finish her Clinical Psychology studies, but just can’t get by on the Loan living costs while taking on more part-time work and do her clinical placements. Steven Joyce is robbing her and New Zealand of her future.

Other changes have included freezing the repayment threshold for Student Loans at $19,084, meaning people are paying back Loans well before they can really afford to, restricting access to living costs for people aged over 55, introducing a $40 annual “administration” fee on loans (interest by stealth as I like to call it) restricting access for new migrants to Loans, freezing the parental-income threshold for Allowances (meaning hundreds of students missing out on Allowance support), and the list goes on.

And then there is the bizarre gimmick of introducing arrest-at-the-border provisions for borrowers who have got themselves into some bother with repayments. The Police have said they don’t have the resources to enforce this, but National has blundered on regardless to try to look tough, but actually just scaring people out of coming home.

I think it’s time to re-look at the whole Loans and Allowances system. When Labour was last in office, we expanded access to Allowances and introduced interest-free Student Loans. I am proud of those achievements, but I think there is more to do. Students are still the only group in society that we ask to borrow money to eat. I am not convinced our current spend on Loans and Allowances is working.

Given his track record, I have got no faith in the soothing words from Steven Joyce about his future plans for Allowances. His record is restricting access to Loans and Allowances in the same Budgets as he found money to massively increase funding for private schools. It is about priorities, and Labour will once again prioritise tertiary education and student support when we form the next government.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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