U-turn on medical student loans

Posted By TEU on Dec 3, 2015 |

Tertiary education minister Steven Joyce announced he will allow graduate entry medical students to apply for an extra 1 EFTS of student loan. Medical students welcomed this policy backtrack saying it will allow most graduate-entry medical students to complete their studies.

However, the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA)  is warning it still leaves some medical students without government help.

As well as the student loan extension Joyce will also allow medical students  to use the Trainee Intern Grant as a lump sum in their final year of study, rather than as a monthly payment.

Earlier on the same day NZMSA presented a petition with over 20,000 signatures to parliament urging Joyce to remove the 7-year cap on the Student Loan for medical students.

Medical schools select more than 30 percent of their students from a pool of applicants who have already completed a degree. The current seven-year cap means these students will be without a student loan to fund their last years of study.

Under the current seven-year loan cap some students would have to pay over $30,000 to finish their studies and may need to withdraw from medicine to save for the fees.

NZMA president Mike Fleete says the minister is taking a step in the right direction.

“However, the policy still leaves those who studied longer degrees, done prior research or completed bridging courses without government assistance for the duration of their medical study.”

The national student union says Steven Joyce’s overdue decision to lift the cap for the number of years students are eligible for loans for some undergraduate programmes is an important win for students.

NZUSA President Rory McCourt says the decision will also help optometry, dentistry and veterinary science students.

McCourt says the decision has come after five years of student groups lobbying and of showing Minister Joyce the evidence.

“But in the end it was public action and constant media that pushed him. He was adamantly opposed to this change five minutes ago and now he’s all for it.”

The universities of Auckland and Otago both welcomed the decision.

Auckland’s associate Professor Warwick Bagg, said the u-turn has broader benefits as it ensures a pathway to a diverse group of students such as graduate-entry students, many of whom are Māori and Pacific students.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Large CEO pay rises harming tertiary education
  2. NorthTec allied staff want parity
  3. Generation Rent owes $11 billion
  4. Parliament votes down university council bill
  5. Unemployment is still too high

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