Students are calling for the Minister for Tertiary Education to come clean on his plans for further cuts to student support if the National-led government is re-elected.
Papers were recently released to the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) under the Official Information Act (OIA), after nearly eighteen months of enquiries and only following an intervention from the Ombudsman. They reveal that Steven Joyce had been considering far greater student support cuts in 2012 than those to postgraduate students and those aged over forty which were subsequently announced. He sought advice on reducing student allowances from the current five years to three years for everyone and reducing the loan available to meet course costs from the present $1000 to $500.
“These proposals were ridiculous and would have had had a dramatic impact on access. Students who need bridging into their degrees, have had previous study, do double-degrees, or make the slightest changes from the courses they start on would be forced into additional debt, and these are people whose parents by definition cannot support them. The loan for course costs is vital for students, in particular when they are setting themselves up at the beginning of each year, and hasn’t increased since 1992”, said NZUSA President Daniel Haines.
“Ministry for Social Development advice confirmed that the proposals would have further discouraged beneficiaries from moving into full-time study but, as we have seen with proposals for changes to university and wānanga governance, Steven Joyce doesn’t regard all advice being against something as a reason not to proceed with it.
“The grounds we were given that the advice was withheld when NZUSA first sought it under the OIA were that the proposals were still under consideration – we challenged the legitimacy of this as a reason to withhold information – and we are concerned they could be reintroduced.
“Students deserve to know if these callous ideas are still being deliberated, especially as National is looking at potential coalition partners in ACT and United Future who are themselves proposing significant cuts in student support.
“The Minister hid his ideas for two years, which was bad enough, but in the lead-up to the election in September students, intending students, and their families deserve to know what a National government might do if it re-elected.”
The information released under the OIA is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org