Labour unveils $2 billion sweeteners for students

University of Otago students are filling the library as second semester exams get underway. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON
When she took over as leader, Jacinda Ardern made tertiary education one of her priorities. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

Labour has set out plans to plough an extra $2 billion into tertiary education as sweeteners to students - including a $50 boost to student allowances and a big increase in the expected cost of its policy to offer three years free education to all school leavers and those retraining.

Its revised tertiary education package includes a $275 million a year boost to student allowances, lifting the allowance by $50 a week from about $170 a week to $220 a week. It will also restore the ability to get student allowances and loans throughout long-term courses such as medicine saying it made no sense to cut them off.

It will also bring forward its plan to offer three years' fees-free post-school education so it begins from next year. The estimated cost of that has increased to $2b over four years, up from just over $1billion when it was announced. By 2021/22 it is now expected to cost $743m.

When she took over as leader, Jacinda Ardern made tertiary education one of her priorities.

She said it would mean more students could go on to study and get qualifications with less debt. She had been concerned about the cost of living for students, who said the $170 a week was not enough to cover rent, let alone other costs.

The three-years package would be phased in, so from the beginning of 2018 everyone starting tertiary education would get one year study without paying fees. From 2021, school leavers would get two years free and from 2024 three years.

The extra support was included in Labour's revised Fiscal Plan following the pre-election opening of the books by Treasury last week.

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