As living costs continue to rise in the major cities, tertiary students are feeling the squeeze. Those doing postgraduate and further study, including future doctors, aren't eligible for the student allowance and some parties are promising to change that. NZ First wants to help students who are racking up debt by offering write-off schemes for those who take up skilled work in the regions. Labour and National are both offering boosts to the student allowance, while ACT wants to scrap it altogether. TOP wants to bring in a universal payment for 18 - 23 year olds regardless of whether or not they do tertiary study.
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Here's what the parties will do for tertiary education in New Zealand:
The Māori Party wants a universal student allowance adjusted to the cost of living for all tertiary students - that includes extending it to postgraduate students who are currently ineligible to receive the allowance. It wants to increase the accommodation supplement by half for all tertiary students, and write off half of all student debt that relates to living costs rather than tertiary fees. The party wants to introduce 'First in Whānau' university scholarships, and increase the number of Māori and Pacific students gaining Bachelor degrees and placements in training and cadetships. Read the Māori party's education policy.
The Opportunities Party (TOP) wants a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for youth. They'd scrap the student allowance and living costs completely and instead offer a weekly $200 payment for all 18 - 23-year-olds, no strings attached. The party wants a comprehensive review of the tertiary education sector to ensure it's teaching skills relevant to people's adult lives and and tied to well-paid employment outcomes. It sees the current funding model as too focused on "bums on seats" and also wants to reform immigration to only allow foreign students to gain residency points from skilled work. Read TOP's education policy.
Labour would deliver a $50 boost to both the student allowance and the maximum amount that can be borrowed on living costs. The party would restore the student allowance for postgraduate students and extend it to those studying for more than seven years, such as medical students. It would phase in a policy of three years of free tertiary study, starting with one free year in 2018 and being fully implemented by 2024. It would also introduce a policy for young entrepreneurs, who could apply to swap their three years of free tertiary study for $20,000 of funding to develop a new business. Read Labour's tertiary education policy.
The Green Party would reinstate access to the student allowance for postgraduate students and those studying beyond seven years. The party wants to work towards a universal student allowance by progressively lowering the age at which students cease to be means-tested on their parents' income. The Greens want to consider debt write-off schemes that limit the burden of debt while incentivising graduates to contribute to New Zealand after graduation. They want to adjust loan repayment schemes to begin at higher income levels, and lengthen the repayment holiday for overseas borrowers. They want to review the student allowance, living costs, course-related costs and the accommodation supplement to ensure they're at an "equitable and liveable level". They want to work towards a free tertiary education system by progressively lowering fees, while also launching a funding review of tertiary institutions. Read the Green Party tertiary education policy.
National will lift the accommodation benefit for those on the student allowance by $20 per week for eligible students in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. The boost for students in areas like Hamilton and Palmerston North will be lower. National does not have plans to reinstate the student allowance for postgraduate students, which it scrapped while in Government in 2013.
ACT believes the student allowance should be eradicated, saying that it's too easy for students who don't need it to access it through their parents' creative accounting. Instead it wants borrowed living costs for all students, with a $40 boost to the weekly amount that can be borrowed. ACT doesn't see the need for any changes to the current student loan scheme.
New Zealand First wants to introduce a universal student allowance for all full-time students, for the duration of their study. It wants to reduce the amount of student debt by offering a dollar-for-dollar repayment scheme, putting a dollar write-down for every year a person living in New Zealand paid off a dollar on their loan. The party would also completely write off the student loans for students who spend five years working in essential skills areas in specified regions. The party would seek to introduce 2000 annual 'First in Family' scholarships. Read New Zealand First's tertiary education policy.