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Interest free student loans – still safe for now?

Written By: - Date published: 10:05 am, August 18th, 2016 - 58 comments
Categories: class war, debt / deficit, tertiary education - Tags: , , ,

A right-wing think tank blurts:

Interest-free student loans a ‘poor use of $6 billion taxpayers’ dollars’: report

The Government has written off $6 billion in interest on student loans in the last decade but a new report says the policy is a poor use of money and should be scrapped.

More than $1.5 million has been lent by the government to students in the last year alone and $602m was immediately written off, said Eric Crampton, head researcher at the New Zealand Initiative.

Yes, that’s the policy. Because $15 Billion in student debt is TOO MUCH ALREADY.

The loan scheme is a poor use of $6 billion and ultimately it’s a subsidy for “upper and middle class households who can afford to pay their own way,” he said.

That is true if and only if tertiary education is populated by the children of “upper and middle class households”, which it isn’t. And if it was, what a sad indictment of education in NZ that would be!

Labour Party education spokesman Chris Hipkins says scrapping interest-free student loans would “reinforce inequity”.

Exactly.

But both National and Labour are agreed – the right wing think-tank has got it wrong and neither party has any intention of getting rid of the scheme.

Crampton says politically the policy is a win and no party at the mercy of voters would want to get rid of it but in terms of increasing the number of students with degrees and the number of poorer students attending – it’s failed on both counts.

However,Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce disputes that and says official figures show 20,800 students completed bachelor degrees in 2008 and since 2012 the number of students has been in excess of 25,000.

He says the issue is about trade-offs and the government has it about right.

And interesting acknowledgement, given the way the Nats howled about interest free loans when Labour introduced them.

58 comments on “Interest free student loans – still safe for now? ”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    There are two types of student loan ‘ interest writeoffs’

    Firstly for students who are still studying, their interest is written off immediately

    Secondly for those who are out of study but paying at least the minimum to repay the amount borrowed any interest on the amount borrowed is written off.
    ( I hope I have the basics right- there may be an income threshold)

    • Chooky 1.1

      ..except for those young NZers living overseas….they get interest heaped on their loans and met at the airport if they are not paying through the nose…criminal really

      • dukeofurl 1.1.1

        Those are only people who have never paid any back, it may be interest free but its never principal free.
        Plus they dont respond to attempts to contact them. They are stealing from the taxpayer so deserve it as they discredit the whole scheme for people who do play by the rules.

        • Chooky 1.1.1.1

          “Those are only people who have never paid any back”…that is simply NOT true for a start

          …”Plus they dont respond to attempts to contact them.”…where is your evidence for this?…again not true!

          “They are stealing from the taxpayer so deserve it”… again not true! … many New Zealand taxpayers believe in supporting students through tertiary study for the good of New Zealand

          …and the rest is not true either!( fallacious arguments all)

  2. Lanthanide 2

    My partner has a phd, and over $50k of student debt. If interest were still being charged on loans, he would likely have gone to Australia after completing his degree, to earn enough money to keep up with the interest. It’s reasonably likely that I would have also gone with him, as I’d probably still have had a small amount left on my student loan too (as it was, I paid mine off in 2010 I believe, 4 years after graduating).

    Instead, it’s interest-free to stay in NZ. He’s now set up his own engineering company and employs 3 people, looking to hire 2-3 more over the next 12 months or so.

  3. Righty right 3

    There getting loans interest free the very least the student should do in pay back there student loans the government could package these loans up and sell them off get some of our money back

    • North 3.1

      Gosh you’re a box of tricks Righty Right. One minute you’re quite insightful next minute you want to throw people to the wolves. On which occurrence bankruptcy (the earlier adjudicated the better) would become more de rigueur than starry-eyed love declarations for John Key by T’Audrey and Trev’ of The Herald. Unless of course the love object were to exclude usual bankruptcy rules for the benefit of his pals the private wolves.

      • dukeofurl 3.1.1

        The government borrows at (say) 2.5% and lends it out to students at ( currently) 4.8%
        Its making money Rr, surely you could love that

  4. ianmac 4

    A bit puzzling that, “More than $1.5 million has been lent by the government to students in the last year alone and $602m was immediately written off, said Eric Crampton, head researcher at the New Zealand Initiative.”
    Was that $602million a debt written off, or was it what would have been gained had interest been charged?
    And the $6billion?

    • dukeofurl 4.1

      Its interest written off. They way it works is the account is sent with ‘interest due’ shown which then has a corresponding credit for interest written off. Interest is calculated daily too which is pretty tough if you dont qualify for interest free.

  5. keith ross 5

    I listened to the American tell us how to do it and could not believe that he really thinks that making it more un-affordable would be bettor for the poorer students . In America this would be ridiculous to not make money off the education of your children but this is NZ not Alabama. We used to care about our own population and how well they were doing. Now they are all about how to make money off everything and everyone ,winners and losers(mostly losers under neoliberal capitalism). Everyone can’t afford to have their daddy pay for them while they invest their loan into the banking system. Two points about this. The money from the loan could of been used to pay for the study and the money from daddy could of been used to invest it makes no difference when you have money from two sources which one is then put where. The money is still the same when pooled. The second point is that is this really a problem ? I have never met anyone who has the spare money and the deceit to do this. On the loan agreements there are provisions for this must be for what you say it is for. To borrow 1000 dollars for expenses which you must state what they are and then not to follow through is surely illegal under our present system. I am at Otago Polytechnic right now and I personally know several students who have given up study or are thinking about quitting as they have not enough to pay their bills.Most can starve the bills off for a while but they eventually catch up on you. I need a job as I have to pay x by x is a common line among the non well off. Jobs are not easy to come by for a student in Dunedin and it hampers study in technical subjects to have to get out and work .
    His comments may be true in America but are out of touch in NZ

    • North 5.1

      Keith Ross – “I listened to the American tell us how to do it…….”

      Yes, their fraudulent claims to objectivity and technical excellence by use of spin words like “Initiative”, “Foundation” and “Institute” are appalling. Such types truly are Ugly Americans.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      Polytechnic right now and I personally know several students who have given up study or are thinking about quitting as they have not enough to pay their bills.

      Yep, our present system makes it almost impossible to actually be able to afford to finish study.

    • aj 5.4

      “Two points about this. The money from the loan could of been used to pay for the study and the money from daddy could of been used to invest it makes no difference when you have money from two sources which one is then put where. The money is still the same when pooled. The second point is that is this really a problem ? I have never met anyone who has the spare money and the deceit to do this. On the loan agreements there are provisions for this must be for what you say it is for. To borrow 1000 dollars for expenses which you must state what they are and then not to follow through is surely illegal under our present system”

      Totally true and never addressed by the Eric Crampton’s of this world. Kathryn Ryan to her credit confronted (weakly) Crampton about the lack of evidence for his case of loan abuse. It. Is. Total. BS

  6. Pat 6

    curiously there is no mention of the default/write-off level when student loans were subject to interest nor the rate of graduates heading offshore under the previous regime.

    The flaw in their argument is the fact the bulk of the defaults are by overseas based graduates who are subject to interest from the day they leave the country.

    • Chooky 6.1

      yes and ironically they leave the country in order to find work to pay off their student debt

      • In Vino 6.1.1

        I always believed that student debt is a nasty Right-Wing crime directed against a Social Good (Education), and I agree with Keith (comment 5) and his supporters.

  7. shorts 7

    whenever this lot publish their “research” I have to remind myself they’re the new face of the previously known Business Roundtable – an organisation many of us know by deed and history – i.e. we knew exactly what they stood for

    Everytime this mob publish their drivel I would suggest The Standard (at least) put something along the lines of the New Zealand Initiative previously known as the Business Roundtable – as that will easily identify the agenda to readers and posters

    • Pat 7.1

      their case is so weak and their presentation (as displayed on RNZ this morning) so unconvinced that it is evident it is nothing more than an attempted distraction.

      • shorts 7.1.1

        I’m not sure about the distraction – changing public perceptions is a long game

        • Pat 7.1.1.1

          true enough…and persistence is key, however it could serve both purposes…an immediate and long term goal.

    • Richard Christie 7.2

      Agreed, worse, the rump of whatever journalistic media that NZ still retains portray the NZ Institutes’ periodic self-serving propaganda offerings as “reports” , which implies they are commissioned or sought by some official body, or governmental agency, that has responsibilities towards policy development.

      Still, it’s understandable when you realise that the owners of our news services, big business and right wing think-tanks are all in it together. Thick as thieves.

  8. Irascible 8

    I suspect that the report was plagiarised as I read a similar piece of “research” from a USA based “think tank” last week.
    Here’s one of the “think pieces” that read in much the same way as the one released in NZ today.
    http://freakonomics.com/2011/09/19/forgive-student-loans-worst-idea-ever/

  9. We recommended reinstating interest on loans and using the savings to fund stronger tertiary preparation, especially in schools with poor track records in getting kids through to tertiary; we also recommended some of the savings be put into means-tested programmes for tertiary study. I thought it also could help fund the kind of career guidance programmes that Chris Hipkins has suggested.

    Tim Hazeldine, Prof of Econ at Auckland Uni, and not generally held to be part of the economic right, recommended reinstating interest on loans and using the savings for reducing tuition fees. http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/8197323/Bitter-pill-should-be-swallowed

    Susan St John, also at Auckland Uni, and of the Child Poverty Action Group, recommended looking at reinstating interest as a way of funding other forms of student support.
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/310013/rethink-interest-free-student-loans-child-poverty-group

    For what it’s worth, I’m Canadian, not American. I suppose whether I’m ugly or not is debatable, but I once again thank the Standard for its expected quality of commentary.

    • Pat 10.1

      assuming your proposals were implemented what is your projection for resident Kiwis tertiary education numbers and what distribution (polytech/university) changes?

    • Lanthanide 10.2

      Did you try and quantify the number of graduates who are explicitly staying in NZ because of the interest-free student loans, who otherwise would have gone overseas in search of higher wages to pay their interest?

      As I noted at #2 above, my partner has a phd and over $50k of student loan debt, which he is paying back at the minimum rate. He graduated just after the CHCH earthquakes struck and so ended up working night-shift in a plastics moulding factory barely above minimum wage because that was the only job he could get.

      If interest were being charged on his loan, he almost certainly would have gone to Australia. Instead he’s stayed in NZ and has now started his own engineering firm that currently employs 3 people and is looking to employ another 2-3 over the next 12 months. If he had gone to Australia, I probably would have gone with him, and this country would have lost two high-earning workers.

      So yes, charging interest might save some money up front. But how much would the country lose from further brain drain? Did you even try and quantify that?

      If not, your study isn’t worth much.

    • North 10.3

      Oh Crampton you can do better than that. The “Ugly……” I mention is the fake claim to objectivity advanced by use of spin words. It’s not necessarily silver-fox-coiffing a la the US Congress but then you know that.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.4

      We recommended reinstating interest on loans and using the savings to fund stronger tertiary preparation,

      Or we could get rich people to pay their taxes. That’d be ~$6 billion per year. Enough to fully fund study without fees or student loans.

      Tim Hazeldine, Prof of Econ at Auckland Uni, and not generally held to be part of the economic right, recommended reinstating interest on loans and using the savings for reducing tuition fees.

      He’s obviously stupid and wrong. All that reinstating interest will do is make young people even more in indebted or just not doing the study.

      Of course, that does seem to be the purpose of student loans and fees anyway.

      • Chooky 10.4.1

        +100 DTB…New Zealand students should be VERY WARY of these NeoLib immoral creeps!

        ( the Neolibs are cannibals of the young…in this case we have paid foreigners recommending we eat our own)

        …students need to get their act together and become a political force to change this government

    • Chooky 10.5

      This is a disguised cunning way of making New Zealand students and their families even more debt ridden

      (and slaves for the rest of their lives…as in the USA where $1.3 trillion in student debt is owed… Its a profit center for Wall Street and the government )

      https://www.revealnews.org/article/who-got-rich-off-the-student-debt-crisis/

      …”One of the winners in the profit spree behind this debt: the federal government. By the Department of Education’s own calculations, the government earns in some years an astounding 20 percent on each loan.

      “The United States government turns young people who are trying to get an education into profit centers to bring in more revenue for the federal government,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said on the Senate floor in February. “This is obscene. The federal government should be helping students get an education – not making a profit off their backs.”…

      ( New Zealand students and their families should NOT fall into the trap of American students and become debt slaves for the rest of their lives…they should VOTE this NACT government out !)

    • McFlock 10.6

      We recommended reinstating interest on loans and using the savings to

      yadda yadda yadda.
      1) Interest payments on student loans not “savings”, they’re “fleecings”.
      2) if any sector is underfunded, raise taxes on the private benefits of education rather than taxing education. Tax the higher income folk when they have a higher income. Because we need educated people in all walks of life.

      • In Vino 10.6.1

        +1 McFlock
        When people like Crampton talk about ‘using savings’ from their profit-gouging usury, we should all see the double-talk for what it is.
        A healthier, more moral society with greater insight would revert to the older religious practice of banning all usury – ie, any charging of interest at all.
        Flat wage increases instead of percentage-based ones would help. If John Key got a tiny percentage increase that gave him $5,000 a year more, so should everybody, including those on minimum wage. The full $5,000. That way, we could work to decrease the abominable and increasing gap between rich and poor.
        The percentage system is a rich man’s rort. Ban all interest, including on savings. Savings are on a loser rate anyway.

  10. Righty right 11

    I would agree if the students were given 2 to 3 years Intrest free on which time could be used to hammer the principle to ratchet a 20 yo with interest is not fair if the little prick makes no attempt of repayment then interest should whaked on and debt sold .There need to more education on the dangers of debt the way we handing out money is a form of predictor lending

    • Pat 11.1

      you do understand that anyone working in NZ with a student loan has their wage/salary garnished?

      • Righty right 11.1.1

        They still represent an asset that could be sold to kiwi saver funds if Intrest was charged

        • Pat 11.1.1.1

          they still can be…they are listed as an asset now…..assuming you see that as a positive. Of course that is merely bookkeeping slight of hand in any case as either way the risk is carried by the taxpayer…..unless of course your intention is to sell to an offshore interest?

  11. Observer Tokoroa 12

    .
    . To: Eric Crampton

    . Why should students be charged Interest Eric? Wouldn’t you be better to go out and enforce taxation on the many wealthy who exempt themselves to a greater or lesser extent.

    Neither students nor any PAYE person can wriggle out of Tax. Only the self employed and the wealthy thumb their nose at Tax. The Corporations too.

    The State wishing to make money out of student loans is appalling. Every normal person knows that. Usury enforced on the young,

    There is plenty of money for you to collect from tax avoiders.

    As regard the Professor of ECON loading up interest debt on students so as to reduce the cost of tuition, seems like a pea and thimble trick. Let the good professor pay more Tax. Strange man.

    Will you be writing a paper on all the ways a student should be ripped off. A tax on visiting a UNI toilet ? A tax on using the UnI corridors?. A Tax on drinking water from the Uni taps. A Tax on using chairs and desks.
    .
    .

  12. save nz 13

    When we get a refund cheque from the Natz members in parliament and the business roundtable for their free education paid completely by the tax payer and the interest on top of that, then we can take them seriously. Not before.

    Likewise can we have a refund from John Key and Paula Bennet for all the social welfare they received as children and growing up?

    I mean if they are serious about user pays…

  13. Gabby 14

    I’m sure Mr Crapton would approve of interest rates tailored to the wealth of students’ parents.

    • You_Fool 14.1

      Maybe tied to the weath/income of the student. Therefore as the graduate earns more they pay more tax.

      That said, just enforce current tax laws and we get the same thing

  14. Chooky 15

    …and in Britain

    ‘Homeward bound: 50% of grads who paid £9k-a-year tuition fees are living with parents, report says’

    https://www.rt.com/uk/356250-students-parents-tuition-report/

    “Students often dream of a nice house and fancy car after graduating from university, but a new report has revealed almost half of the first cohort who paid £9,000 a year in tuition fees are living back home with their parents.

    The National Union of Students (NUS) report highlighted the post-university situation of the first graduates to have paid £9,000 (US$11,700) per year in tuition fees, after costs were hiked in 2012.

    The report’s findings revealed that 47 percent of students were living with their parents seven months after graduating.

    But the bad news didn’t end there. Seven out of 10 students surveyed said they were concerned about the student debt they had accumulated, and half thought their degree wasn’t worth the fees. More than three-quarters of graduates said they are concerned the government might change the terms of their student loans to make them pay back more…

  15. Cinny 16

    Tertiary education should be free for all citizens. Those whom gain a qualification for any skill that there may be a shortage of in the near future should be given an incentive and a hook up for employment.

    The only reason any would try to suppress education is to gain control. A highly skilled educated population would be of huge benefit to NZ.

    Time to look to the future

    • b waghorn 16.1

      If it’s free how do you stop the students that go to uni for years and pass nothing ,

      • Cinny 16.1.1

        Limit the time, I like labours ideas on tertiary education. 3 is always a good number, 3yrs 😀 and it would enable many adults to retrain as some of their current jobs are replaced or scaled down due to advances in technology.

        Get a small incentive at the end when you receive your qualification. As well some whom may not gain their qualification will at least have some new skills to add more value to their life, future employment etc.

        Some whom fail at education are sometimes not that interested in what they are studying, so the advisor in the secondary school could help prevent that.

        • McFlock 16.1.1.1

          nah – you have postgrads, people who change degrees mid way, people who retrain mid-life, and older studiers used to be quite good examples for the young.

          I say make it free for everyone, but have policies on academic progression in funding so the establishments don’t have an incentive just to put bums on seats while educating nobody.

      • DS 16.1.2

        Universities already have procedures in place for perpetually failing students.

      • keith ross 16.1.3

        People who go to uni for years and pass nothing would not be readmitted to many institutions, as far as I am aware as the funding is worked out on a formula that is tied to a certain amount (%) that must pass (among other things). Maybe it was like that when you went but, thankfully, it does not reflect the reality today. You may find it quite a lot different now.

      • Nic the NZer 16.1.4

        You don’t. The waste of time involved is enough dis incentive anyway.

    • miravox 16.2

      Yup, I agree with this. For those who meet the entry requirements* tertiary education should be free.

      *which can and should be varied (I left school without qualifications so my entry requirements were being aged over 25 and passing a test).

      I don’t agree with time limits though. I can see the appeal, but it doesn’t work in practice. There would have to be so many exemptions to the limit that it’s cumbersome and has a whiff of unfairness. I agree with McFlock -the focus should be on academic progression.

      [With my academic background I should have a few disclaimers on that last paragraph]

  16. RedBaronCV 17

    The other thing we could do is to chop some of the exorbitant high end salaries the Universities pay. Lower down staff are worked hard and paid poorly but once the loans were interest free tuition fees exploded ( Basic degree went from $10000 to $20000 over about three years) so a large part of the interest free “benefit” was grabbed by those at the top of the Uni’s salary scale.

  17. Philj 18

    Let’s not forget the income to universities from overseas students and the marketing departments competing for ‘customers’. The system is totally back to front and these perverse outcomes are totally predictable. These are not unintended consequences.

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