Green Party Youth and Education spokesperson Nandor Tanczos announced the party’s policy regarding wiping student loans last week.
The ramifications of rising student debt “go way beyond the student and into the way Aotearoa-New Zealand functions,” Tanczos said. “A generation of young people leave tertiary education with significant debt, making it harder to borrow for home ownership, small businesses, women are putting off having children, and we’re now seeing evidence that it’s affecting migration.”
Another impact of the student loan scheme has been declining numbers in professions that don’t pay highly. There are shortages appearing in areas like social work and doctors for rural areas. “It creates a really strong disincentive to do those courses because [students] fear the prospect of being in debt for the rest of their lives.”
Tanczos also talked about the trend of academic courses replacing apprenticeships in the trades. “I think that there’s a view that somehow a degree is more important than other types of tertiary qualification. People who, in the past, would have left school and been trained on the job are getting into debt studying things they never would have had to study. So what we’re seeing is a vicious cycle of over-qualification; not over-qualification exactly but… over-formalisation of [their education].”
The Green’s plan, similar to NZUSA’s, is that graduates make compulsory payments for a set length of time and then the debt will be written off. “To me, that makes a lot more sense than saying you’ll have a loan, potentially, for the rest of your life.”