The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has welcomed the Government’s announcement today that they will extend the student loan borrowing cap for long undergraduate courses.

The Coalition Government will extend the current student loan borrowing limit for those students in long undergraduate programmes, such as medicine, from the start of 2019, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

Currently, students can borrow through the Student Loan Scheme only for up to seven equivalent full-time student (EFTS) of study, with a few limited exceptions.

Some students reach the limit before they have completed their studies and this puts up financial barriers to them completing their qualifications.

“Students in long undergraduate programmes are affected by the limits on borrowing disproportionately compared with students in other programmes,” says Hipkins.

Long undergraduate programmes are single undergraduate qualifications of five EFTS or more in medicine, dentistry, optometry or veterinary science.

“It is anticipated that around 100 people in 2019 will potentially benefit from this policy change, rising to around 130 people in 2022, and cost $11.7 million in operating spending over the next five financial years, and have an $18.1 million impact on the capital budget,” says Hipkins.

NZUSA national president Jonathan Gee says allowing our future doctors, vets and dentists to finish their studies is a “no-brainer”.

“We have heard stories of students from disadvantaged backgrounds take a little longer to realise their dreams of entering programmes like medicine. They shouldn’t be denied their dreams simply due to an arbitrary cap.”

Caitlin Barlow-Groome, president of the Otago University Students’ Association, says that this announcement is great news for Otago University students, given the university’s strengths in medicine and dentistry.

“This announcement is great for these students, especially if they’ve hit the student loan cap due to completing another degree before getting into these competitive programmes.”

Gee says there is still more to be done to remove unfair barriers to education and students are “anxiously waiting” for the removal of other barriers, such as restoring the postgraduate allowance.

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