On January 31st, Andrew Little released a policy aimed at the students of New Zealand. In his State of the Nation speech, the Labour leader revealed a policy plan for three years of free, post-secondary education available to every New Zealander throughout their lifetime.
The policy—part of the Working Futures Plan—would include training, apprenticeships, and higher education approved by NZQA. It could be used for full-time or part-time study, with the three years able to be used in parts.
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Mr Little said in his speech, “our Working Futures Plan will mean that no matter what path someone wants to take after school, be it university or an apprenticeship, they will be able to get the skills they need to succeed without being shackled with years of debt”.
The Government viewed the announcement as a vote-buying scheme for young people. Steven Joyce—the Minister for Tertiary Education—tweeted that Labour, “Wants to take more than a billion dollars a year more off taxpayers to achieve absolutely nothing #desperate”.
Labour’s proposed policy has received support from numerous student organisations including VUWSA. VUWSA president Jonathan Gee said that the policy announcement puts the costs of tertiary education back on the agenda.
“As student debt reaches $15 billion this year, I’m glad that we’re finally having a national conversation on the value of tertiary education to society”.
“This puts tertiary education firmly on the agenda for the 2017 General Election; and I’m looking forward to seeing further wins for the tertiary education sector from other political parties”.
The proposed policy would not include current or past students. Furthermore, it would not affect the existing limitations on living allowances and course-related costs.
It is expected to cost $265 million in the first year and to reach $1.2 billion a year by 2025, with the first year funded with money earmarked by the current government for tax cuts.