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July 18, 2008 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

Bribes, damned bribes, and election winners

It worked in 2005 for Labour. They threw a carrot out into the electorate and we devoured it like the impoverished students we are. Here in 2008 we see Labour thinking about pulling the same stunt. The release of a policy paper for the costing of providing a universal student allowance, in what would be a blatant plagiarism of other parties policy and an attempt to get a pass grade at the up coming election.

I really really really hope that all of you can see this move for what it would be: a bribe.

I also wish to emphasise that the Green Party, New Zealand First, Progressives and United Future have for a long time had some form universal student allowance on their policy books. So a vote for any of these parties is a vote for a party that truly believes in debt free education. Not a vote given to Labour who has had nine years to improve the prospects of students and has done very little and in fact under Labour, the number and value of allowances paid to students have continued to fall.

I would love to see a universal student allowance, but what is the question that granting one is the answer to. Labour certainly thinks that the question is “How can we win the election?”

But there are better questions that could be asked.

“How can we help lift the financial burden on students to gain better quality educational outputs by students?”

“How can we decrease future levels of student debt?”

But there are also questions that need to be asked that student allowances are not the answer to:

“How do we lower current levels of student debt?”

“How do we ensure qualified graduates remain in New Zealand?”

“How can we ensure that New Zealand’s tertiary education providers are adequately funded to cope with increasing numbers of students?”

Sure it will help future students, but what about all the people who have for 3-5 years struggled to make ends meet, have not been eligible and received very little help from parents? It does not help them pay off their part of the $10 billion accumulated student debt. An allowance doesn’t put forward any incentive to pay any loan off after you have finished studying: there is no point because the loan is not accruing interest!

We also need to look at the flow on effects of a universal student allowance. We all know somebody who currently gets the allowance but probably shouldn’t. The parents run everything through a trust, a business or farm to make it look like they earn very little, at least below the threshold for allowances. But everything is paid for by their parents or at least in part and the government money is pissed up against the wall or spent on designer shoes. Should these people be getting the allowance, their parents can and do pay for parts of their time at university (as is the underlying assumption of the allowance scheme: your parents should be supporting you), yet because some parents earn slightly too much money or do not support their children into their mid twenties, they cannot get the allowance.. hmmm

Also what about the people who are in the situation where they aren’t using it for living costs. EG putting it into the bank or investing it. Good on them for being in a situation to be able to do that, and intelligent enough to do that, but is that perverting the intention of an allowance?

Any move to grant a student allowance needs to be well thought out or else it is open to abuse whether it is by people not using it for its intended purpose, or differentiating it enough from the dole to ensure that becoming a student is not the answer to being unemployed.

If it is not thought out and rushed into implementation we could see another failure which will put further strain on the NZ economy, tertiary education system, and bound to be short lived if National get back into government. If Labour do want to make a positive change to the situation they need to address student issues holistically and not piecemeal at election time. They should also acknowledge the Greens, NZ First and United Future for their long term input into the initiative. I suggest rebranding the scheme KiwiAllowance so as to ensure that National couldn’t dismantle it at a later date.

It will be interesting to see where Labour goes with this. Perhaps this was a sneaky ploy to get feedback about the idea. The Standard was quick to say that “Labour has been good to students and there’ll probably moves on allowances and/or loans in Labour’s election platform. But don’t expect massive universal allowances any time soon.”

No one is expecting (well cept maybe NZUSA) that we get $350 student allowances. What we do expect is a helping hand to get us on our way and earning tax dollars so that we can pay our debt back faster, then NZ will reap the benefits of having an educated population with lower debt levels.


About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (7)

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  1. Gibbon says:

    I’ll digest this post at a later date… I immediately leaped upon it, hoping it was about Cosgrove’s constant failure to deliver.

  2. Jackson Wood says:

    Nothing to digest… just waffle.

  3. Naly D says:

    You really think they’d rush into it with Cullen as finance minister?

    Metiria Turei is a champion.

  4. Superior Mind says:

    In the long run I don’t see universal student allowances as a quick-fix for the issue of Student Debt.

    However who wants to bother thinking? Free money bitches!

  5. Jackson Wood says:

    Burn it down, start again?

  6. Sancho Earl Rich says:

    Yeah you are right Jackson, a massive bribe as they say fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

    I knew when they removed the interested in 05 that they would go the full route in 08 as it is pretty much revenue neutral having a student allowance as opposed to the current living cost loans i.e. they put $150 pw into your account so makes no difference to them now as they aren’t going to get interest earned on that and you might not pay it back ever unless you start paying PAYE in some indefinite future, so makes sense to just have the amount put in your account being an allowance that you don’t have to pay back as it has the same effect on the economy at the end of the day.

    I suppose the only reason they ever had student loan living costs is because they just thought a lot of so called dole bludgers would drift from course to course to avoid being work tested by WINZ…

  7. Jordan King says:

    Yeah man. We believe that we’ll get $350 for sure. Nostradamus had a prophecy about it…

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