New figures showing that student loan defaulters have now clocked over $1 billion in debt highlights National's failure to combat spiralling student loan debt, Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
"Threatening to arrest returning student loan borrowers at the border has merely acted as a disincentive for expat kiwis to come home. It hasn't made any real dent in the student debt mountain.
"Student loan debt has increased by over 50 per cent since National took office. Over the past five years, the average student loan balance has increased by over $3600. In contrast in the last five years, Labour was in government, it increased by half that amount.
“This is getting out of control. Over two decades after the student loan was introduced, we still haven’t reached the stage where repayments exceed borrowing, and projections suggest we’re not going to get there anytime soon.
“The best way to tackle student debt is to bring down the costs students face, yet tuition fees have continued to increase every year that National has been in power.
“Recent statistics showing participation in post-school education is falling at just about every level of study should ring further alarm bells. Cost and debt are clearly factors that are discouraging Kiwis from undertaking additional education and training.
"Labour will tackle the student debt crisis by introducing 3 years of free post-school education. That will mean Kiwis don't finish their studies with huge debts in the first place.
"We've got a concrete, credible plan to boost participation in post-school study and tackle mounting student loan debt. Meanwhile National continues to offer more of the same,” says Chris Hipkins.