Student Loans for Over 65s

The Dom Post reports:

Scrapping financial help for students aged 65 and over would put retraining out of reach for many older workers, senior citizens say.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said last week she had asked for advice about scrapping and allowances for senior citizens.

Ms Tolley said although she supported lifetime learning, “in tough economic times we do have to carefully consider how and where our investment in education is best placed.”

About 150 people over 65 got a student allowance in the first three months of this year and 655 received a student loan.

Grey Power national president Les Howard said cutting funding for older students was discriminatory and ignored the increasing number of people choosing to work past retirement age.

The reality is that if you take out a student loan at age 65, you will probably never pay it back, and it is ridicolous to think that in these tight economic times the priority should be totally free tertiary education for people who have mainly retired from the workforce. The state subsidises tertiary education partly because a more educated workforce has an economic return to it.

The latest student loans annual report has the percentage of borrowers aged over 50 having increased from 0.4% in 1992 to 4.3% in 2007.

The former President of Grey Power was not as greedy as his sucessor – he agreed it was perverse:

“I struggle with the concept that money will be lent to people who are not working and can’t pay it back,” said Grey Power national president Graham Stairmand.

And Dr Cullen also said it was an issue:

Tertiary Education Minister Michael Cullen told the Herald he was aware of the issue and was looking into it.

He told National MP Pansy Wong in Parliament last week: “One of the slightly stranger features of the student loan scheme is that once one reaches a certain age, in effect one does not have to pay the loan back.”

If someone over 65 wants to do tertiary study then good on them. The taxpayer is still going to subsidise 70% or so of the cost of their course – which is bloody generous. But by giving them a student loan they will never repay, we are effectively increasing that subsidy to 100%. If you are over 65 and want to study you should pay for the course fees yourself – not borrow off the next generation of taxpayers. I hope the Government does change eligibility.

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