The Government has taken a big first step towards making tertiary education and training more affordable for all New Zealanders.
The Government’s first 100 Days Programme includes introducing $50 a week boost to both student allowances and loan entitlements for living costs and making the first year of tertiary education fees-free from January 1, 2018.
Today we are announcing the first of these policies is in place as promised. This will make more than 130,000 students $50 a week better off.
From January 1, 2018, student allowance base rates and the maximum amount students can borrow for living costs will rise by a net $50 a week.
Where the allowance rate reflects the living costs of two adults, the increase will be $100 net a week.
Allowance payments for single students aged under 24 and living away from home, for example, will rise from $177.03 to $227.03. The maximum amount that students can borrow will rise from $178.81 to $228.81.
No change is being made to eligibility rules for student allowances or loans.
We have heard the concerns of students and their families who have told us cost is a real barrier to taking on tertiary study.
Improving affordability and access to tertiary education and training will improve opportunities both for our young people and for adult learners who have previously been deterred from taking on tertiary study and training because of cost.
New Zealand itself and its economy will also be a big winner, with an ever-increasing number of jobs requiring tertiary-level education or training.
In addition, student allowance rates and loan living costs maximum will be further adjusted from April 1, 2018 in line with any increase in the CPI. The Accommodation Benefit is also scheduled to rise by $20 a week in 2018 to a maximum of $60 a week for students.
The Government is also on track to deliver the first year of fees-free education and training from January 1 next year.
Final decisions are being worked through, and students can rest assured that the first year of fees-free study will commence next year and they should plan accordingly.
We expect to be in a position to make announcements soon.
The changes for 2018 are just the first step in the process as the Government rolls out a full programme of three years’ fees-free tertiary education for New Zealanders by 2024 alongside better support for living costs.
Further information is available through the Ministry of Education website.
Chris Hipkins is Education Minister of New Zealand