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NZ First have announced a policy that would see tertiary students’ debt transferred into a “skills debt.”
New Zealand First education spokesperson Tracey Martin said graduates would be able to earn off their “skills debt” by working in the country for the same amount of time they studied.
Despite costing the taxpayer $4.6 billion, the policy would help clear what Martin described as the country’s “unsustainable” student loan debt.
Martin cited the increase in depression and anxiety rates in young people, lower homeownership rates, and the number of educated kiwis moving overseas for better jobs as major concerns stemming from current student debt.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations has welcomed the release of the Up Front Investment policy. President Linsey Higgins said, “we know Tracey and NZ First are committed to addressing the barriers that student loans create while balancing the obligation that graduates have to the country that has educated them.”
VUWSA President Jonathan Gee said he believes the policy is “a smart idea to reduce to burden of debt on students.”
“I’m sure many students will resonate with the idea, and it seems to go a step further than Andrew Little’s idea-slip on Salient FM a few weeks ago.”
NZ First has not traditionally targeted the youth vote, instead being associated with policies aimed at senior citizens, such as the introduction of the SuperGold transport cards in October 2008.
When asked whether he felt the policy was a ploy to attract the youth vote Gee told Salient, “There’s always politics going on, but I think it’s interesting that all three opposition parties now support some form of free tertiary education.”
“It shows tertiary education will be firmly on the agenda for the 2017 Election.”
Currently there is no active youth wing of New Zealand First, with the former NZ First Youth “president” Curwen Rolinson being charged with possession of cannabis for supply in 2015.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce is dubious of the policy, saying it is unaffordable and would blow the country’s budget. Classic Steve.