On Wednesday March 2 at noon, student politicians, real politicians, and totally broke students assembled in the Hub to talk about debt. Specifically, the $15 billion of student loan debt floating around the solar system.
$15 billion debt day was a nationwide NZUSA campaign that set out to shine a light on growing student debt and the pressure it’s putting on students and graduates.
NZUSA President Linsey Higgins said the day was a chance to highlight the “many faces of student debt.”
Sickening facts were thrown around such as 75% of students thinking their debt will affect their chances of home ownership, and one third of students thinking they won’t be able to have children due to the burden of their debt.
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Labour had the strongest cohort in attendance, with party leader Andrew Little and Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa both having a turn with the mic.
Little took the opportunity to plug his tertiary education policy, which would provide three years of free post-school study for whoever wanted it. The reality check came when Little tacked on the end that they won’t be able to introduce the policy until they’re elected into parliament in 2016.
Tax cuts are not valuing education Little said. The crowd cheered.
Tertiary spokesperson Chris Hipkins and associate tertiary spokesperson David Cunliffe were also spotted loitering in the background.
NZ First’s Tracy Martin was the debt day dark horse, passionately telling students they shouldn’t be expected to borrow money to live. This statement was made all the more sobering when Martin dropped the bombshell that the University of Auckland had experienced a 93% increase in students seeking support.
Last to take the stage was Green Party co-leader James Shaw. Getting down with the kids, Shaw likened the last time the accommodation supplement was raised in 2004 to “a time before YouTube existed.” Very hip, much cool.
Shaw also informed those in attendance that in 2004, the average room in a Wellington student flat would cost you $90/wk. Today the average is rent $140/wk, with many students paying much more.
VUWSA president Jonathan Gee closed out the 20 minute proceeding by commending those in attendance for “starting a conversation” about student debt. Gee then shared his student loan balance ($35,000) and told audiences it made him “scared.”
No representatives from the National, ACT, or Māori parties were present.