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New Zealand should be encouraging students into tertiary education, not preventing them from studying by forcing them into debt to survive, the Green Party said today.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has indicated that student allowance eligibility will be cut in the Budget.
"By restricting access to student allowances, the Government will restrict access to tertiary education," Green Party Students Spokesperson Holly Walker said.
"We know low income groups are already put off by the high cost of education. The prospect of having to borrow money to live will see more people giving up on a tertiary education.
"That sounds like a dimmer, rather than brighter, future to me."
Students are the only group who are routinely expected to borrow money to cover their living costs and the result is over $12 billion in debt.
"John Key has said he wants to 'reign in' the student loan scheme in a 'big way' but by cutting back on eligibility for a student allowance he's likely to force more students to borrow under the scheme," Ms Walker said.
Mr Joyce has been reported as saying the Government can't sustain the rising costs of student allowances.
He has already frozen the parental income threshold which means students who used to be eligible for an allowance no longer qualify.
"The Green Party sees education as an investment in the future of the country.
"Mr Joyce is using the economic climate as a reason for cutting access to education, when this is the perfect time to have an open, accessible tertiary education system that encourages more New Zealanders to up skill and retrain."