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Salient FM became a C-grade celebrity overnight after Andrew Little let a major policy slip on-air last week.
While being interviewed on “Salient mornings with Chris and Matt,” Little mentioned a potential policy that would see student debt wiped for graduates willing to take up public service jobs in the regions.
He said on air, “we’re looking at ways that we can assist students to effectively write off at least a part of that student debt, through things like taking a public service job somewhere outside of one of the main centres, and for the length of period that you’re there let’s look at a write-off sort of regime.”
He was however quick to add he doesn’t “have any particular promise to make.”
Little’s policy bomb follows the announcement earlier this year, in his State of the Nation speech, that if voted into government Labour would offer three years of free post-school education over a person’s lifetime.
He said the latest policy idea was partially to help those who had already finished studying and had no need for the three-years free education.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce was not supportive of the policy, and didn’t think Little “knows what to do from what I can see, but if he is talking about wiping off student loan debt that is a very big cost to taxpayers.”
New Zealand Union of Students’ Association (NZUSA) President Linsey Higgins “welcomed” Little’s policy, saying the organisation supports “any ideas that address the skyrocketing levels of student debt.”
She added that “bonding in exchange for student loan repayment assistance is an issue we will be asking students about when we visit campuses over the latter half of this year.”
When asked if the lure of being debt-free would be enough for her to move to a region, Master of International Relations student Fenella Henderson’s first response was: *groans* “would I have to stay there forever? I’d go for two years max then escape.”
She added that she felt like “it probably won’t happen.”
Design school graduate, Ella, was a little more interested, telling Salient, “he’s got my vote.” She was however concerned about a possible lack of design jobs on offer in rural NZ.
Little said Labour still have “more to say in a couple of education policies, including one that will affect students.”