Progressive move to universal student allowance – Hodgson

Tertiary Education Minister Pete Hodgson says that Labour’s Policy  is for a progressive move to a universal student allowance rather than a direct move.

His comments follow speculation Labour will offer a universal student allowance as an election bribe, a policy which appeals to the Greens.

Green MP tertiary education spokeswoman Metiria Turei said the Government should provide a timetable for moving to universal allowances.

“Maybe toying with student livelihoods is just political game playing, but student debt is no fun at all for the generation which has grown up struggling with debt repayments, let alone trying to buy houses or start families,” Mrs Turei said.

Paying higher taxes for election bribes isn’t much fun either and money spent on direct student support is money that’s not available for other areas of education.

The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee said speculation about the universal allowance was unhelpful and the country was spending well over the OECD average on student financial support.

The organisation said funding for tertiary students was more than twice the rate it was for tertiary education institutions. Forty-two percent of tertiary education spending went to student financial support, compared with an OECD average of 18 percent.

Students should put their efforts into strategies to improve the quality of education rather than the quantity of allowances.

Education lobby group, Education Forum, policy advisor Norman LaRocque agreed with the university vice-chancellors.

“Putting money into student support, rather than into funding for TEIs (tertiary education institutions), would do nothing to improve the performance of the tertiary education sector in New Zealand,” he said.

Over generous subsidies send all the wrong signals, encouraging participation rather than rewarding effort.

Students and the country would be better off if more went into teaching and teaching reources; or encouraging graduates in areas of skills shortages, as National has suggested doing by writing off a portion of student loans for each year medical graduates work as rural GPs.

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