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July 13, 2014 | by  | in Homepage News |
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Students Rejoyce

Steven Joyce has ruled out cutting course-related costs and Student Allowance eligibility, and has said that National will keep Student Loans interest-free, if re-elected in September.

Papers recently released to the NZ Union of Students’ Associations show that in 2012, the Minister for Tertiary Education considered cutting course-related costs from $1000 to $500, and reducing the Student Allowance lifetime limit for tertiary study from 200 weeks to 120 weeks.

However, Joyce has confirmed to Salient that National is not considering cutting course-related costs this election.

“We feel it’s in the right place now,” Joyce said.

Joyce also said the Government had “no plans” to reduce the Student Allowance lifetime limit from the current 200 weeks (equivalent to five years’ full-time study) to 120 weeks (equivalent to three years’ full-time study).

“Two things were going on when we were making those considerations: there was a blowout of costs, which we’ve managed to halt with the overseas-based borrower initiative… The other thing was that Student Loans were ramping up, but we’ve managed to get that under control.”

Joyce also said that National would not put interest back on Student Loans: “that’s out.”

The 2012 papers show that, in the lead-up to the 2012 Budget, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) advised that cuts to course-related costs would “cause affordability difficulties for many who do not have the savings or income to afford course-related costs,” particularly beneficiaries and solo parents.

A potential solution to this was an exemption which would allow beneficiaries and “other low income earners” to continue to access the full $1000 of course-related costs.

VUWSA President Sonya Clark said she was “stoked” that Joyce was on record as saying the cuts would not be made.

“The amount for course-related costs has been fixed at $1000 per year since 1993 – and to cut that down to 500 wouldn’t even cover the cost of a full year of textbooks for the average first-year Science student, let alone the cost of a laptop, or the cost of transport out to Kapiti Coast for a teaching placement.”

The MSD also advised against reducing eligibility for Student Allowance, saying it “may reduce opportunities for retraining and second-chance learning, in particular for beneficiaries.”

Other “student support initiatives” considered in 2012 were reducing the Student Allowance parental threshold and introducing an annual 2 EFTS borrowing cap on loans.

In the documents, dated 15 March 2012, the MSD also proposed increasing the repayment rate for Student Loan borrowers living in New Zealand. In May 2012, the repayment rate was increased from ten per cent of all income above $367 per week to 12 per cent, where it has remained.

NZUSA had criticised Joyce before he ruled out the changes.

NZUSA President Daniel Haines said: “Students deserve to know if these callous ideas are still being deliberated, especially as National is looking at potential coalition partners in ACT and United Future who are themselves proposing significant cuts in student support.”

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  1. Yeah, but says:

    So they are not going to the election saying they will cut student support? Which is the same as the last election and the election before. Both times they ended up cutting student support.

    They might not have “plans” to do it now, but when it comes to securing a surplus in 2015/16, students should be ready for cuts again if National is re-elected.

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