ACT wants to lift student loan cap by $40 a week
ACT wants to lift student loan living costs by 40 dollars and index them to rent prices going forwards.
All students can currently borrow a maximum of $178.81 a week for living costs. The rate is tied to CPI inflation, which has been low for years, leading to small annual increases of less than a dollar in some years.
ACT leader David Seymour argues that since rent increases have far outstripped inflation, students are getting a raw deal - especially as rent is usually their largest expense.
"You've got students who are borrowing the maximum of 176 bucks but in some centres the rents are higher than that. You've got students who can't even borrow enough to pay their rent," Seymour said.
Indexing it to rent costs would put it around $40 higher for this year, or $218 a week.
"That would give students a chance to actually get by and study rather than doing what a lot of them are doing and working a whole lot."
"Students in Wellington are actually growing veges in their back garden to save money. On the one hand I admire them for their ingenuity and resourcefulness one the other hand I think the last time people had to do mass-vegetable growing to make ends meet was World War II."
While it would increase the total size of student loans, Seymour said anyone borrowing to study should be working towards a career where they would have the means to pay it back.
He would bring it up with any coalition talks with the National Party at the election and believed they could be swung around on the issue.
"National haven't done it for ten years now but it's hard to identify why they would die in a ditch over it. The kind of things a stronger ACT can achieve in coalition is the kind of things that the National Party wouldn't think to do itself but also it wouldn't kill them to do it."
ACT have just a single MP - Seymour - and on current polling will not increase that number in September.
Despite describing it as "the ultimate in nanny-statism" Seymour thought having some time of weekly cap on the amount made sense.
New Zealand Union of Student Associations president Jonathan Gee said he was happy ACT was finally acknowledging that students don't have enough to live on, but saw this as a short term solution to a long term problem.
"This is better than the current policy," Gee said.
"But as opposed to just adding extra money to the debt in the long term we think they should be looking at the wider student security system."
Increasing access to the student allowance, which doesn't have to be paid, might be part of that solution.
Tertiary Education minister Paul Goldsmith said the current system struck the right balance.
"We think the loan scheme strikes a fair balance of costs between students and taxpayers, as around 80 per cent of the course costs are borne by taxpayers, once interest-free loans are included," Goldsmith said.
"The Government invests around $1.14 billion in financial support for students each year to ensure that tertiary study remains an affordable and feasible option."
Labour proposed making the first three years of tertiary education free.
Total student loan debt in New Zealand last year was at $15.3b, spread over 731,754 borrowers.
The median loan figure sat just below $15,000, with a median repayment time for those who finished study in 2014 of 8.4 years.