80,000 in line for Government fees-free education scheme

About 80,000 students are eligible for the first year of fees-free tertiary education and industry training under the Government's new scheme, developed over the past month.

Kiwis who finish school this year or during 2018 will qualify for the scheme, starting January 1, 2018, as will those who have already left school and completed less than a half a full-time year of education or training.

"This Government has taken the first major steps to break down financial barriers to post-school training and education," says Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

"It comes on top of our recent announcement of $50 increases in student allowance and student loans weekly living costs limits, which will make more than 130,000 students $50 a week better off.

"The policy is a major investment in New Zealand and the New Zealand economy."

While announcing the policy details on Tuesday, Mr Hipkins revealed the Government had budgeted up to $380 million for the current financial year to cover the fees-free policy, and the increase to student loans and allowances.

He expected 50,000 of those eligible under the fees-free scheme to pursue industry training, with the other 30,000 attending university.

"Employers have also been calling for bold forward thinking to build a future workforce with new skills to meet changing demands," says Mr Hipkins. "That's what this policy will deliver.

"We expect the policy to halt and, over time, reverse the current trend of fewer people going into post-school training and education.

"We have budgeted for a 3 percent increase in equivalent full-time students in 2018, equating to about 2000 extra students."

Two weeks ago, the Government announced it would exclude Australians from the fees-free study scheme, unless they had lived in New Zealand for three years.

The three-year criteria is the same required for other forms of student support, but the National Opposition warned it would put further strain on the relationship with our nearest neighbours.