Students' union slams Joyce flip-flop
A student lobby group is accusing Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce of a flip-flop after backing down on a seven-year limit on student loans.
Students working towards degrees in medicine, optometry, dentistry and veterinary science would be able to apply for an extra year of student loan support, Mr Joyce said today.
But his decision was pushed along after a petition of 20,000 signatures, public action and media attention, the New Zealand Union of Students' Association says.
"He was adamantly opposed to this change five minutes ago and now he's all for it," said president Rory McCourt.
Introduced in 2010, the lifetime limit on student loans means students can only borrow from the Government to pay their course fees for their first seven years of study.
But around 30 percent of medical students have completed another degree before enrolling in medicine.
It could take them eight or nine years to finish university and the loan limit would have meant some of them would need to find another way to pay for their final years of study.
NZ First's education spokeswoman Tracey Martin says Mr Joyce should apologise to hundreds of medical students for causing them years of stress and financial hardship.
"Now he's had a light bulb moment, and as a consequence he's backed down," she said.
"It's time to apologise."
Mr Joyce expects there will be fewer than 10 graduate-entry students exceeding the seven year loan limit next year, but the number will grow to more than 100 by 2018.
"There was probably a larger number of graduate-entry medical students than was initially expected," he told reporters.
The change was welcomed New Zealand Medical Students' Association.