Students are a step closer to a more affordable future as the new government fast-tracks work on its free-fees tertiary education promise.
Cabinet has given the go-ahead for detailed implementation planning for the introduction of one year of fees-free tertiary education and a $50 a week boost to student allowances and loan entitlements.
Officials have already started work on both changes, which will come into force from January 1, 2018.
Investing in education and the future of our young people is an absolute priority for this Government.
A key part of that is improving affordability and access to tertiary education.
Students and parents have told us that the cost of study is a real issue.
Making the first year of tertiary education fees-free will mean more young people can go on to study after school and gain qualifications with less debt.
That is not just a win for students and their families, it is a win for the future of our economy. If New Zealand is to be wealthy and successful we must make it easier for our young people to study at our universities, polytechnics, other tertiary providers, and through industry training such as apprenticeships.
Officials are working on the details of how these policies will be implemented and to determine who will be eligible to benefit from them, and we are on track for 2018.
Students, schools and tertiary providers are understandably keen to know full details.
We will make sure they get the information they need in a timely way.
Meanwhile, they can rest assured that the first year of fees free study will kick in next year and should plan accordingly.
Prospective students and tertiary education organisations should continue to make arrangements for study and enrolments for next year as they normally would.
This includes starting, or continuing, any applications for study and/or for student loans or allowances.
StudyLink is encouraging prospective students to apply by December 16, 2017 and to provide their supporting documents promptly to ensure their applications are sorted for the start of the 2018 academic year.
The Government is committed to life-long learning to help better equip our people for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century economy.
We are also committed to rolling out our full programme of three years’ fee-free tertiary education for New Zealanders by 2024 alongside better support for living costs.
Chris Hipkins is Education Minister of New Zealand.