I’ve described John Key as having all the moral fibre of a blancmange a couple of times (one, two), mostly because as far as I could tell, his unending pragmatism meant that he would do anything for votes. Hence the on-going beneficiary bashing and the cutting and cutting and cutting in the public sector, both of which have a minimal impact on the government’ bottom line. But attacking public servants and powerless beneficiaries always plays well among those who are convinced that all those lazy bludgers need is a good kick up the arse and why can’t the whole world be just like me. Votes votes votes, there to be taken.
And now he’s doing it again. Key has ruled out making any changes to interest free student loans, because:
it’s not politically sustainable to put interest back on student loans. It may not be great economics, but it’s great politics.
National’s chief spinmeister has tried to portray this as a policy that is locked-in, thanks to the previous Labour government, but that seems a rather thin excuse after three years in the Treasury benches. It’s just as plausible to describe the National party as being so eager to remain in power because it likes being in power, that it will pay any price, whether or not that price is affordable for New Zealand.
But there’s more to the student loans story.
Key told a Colliers International event in Auckland this morning that while National would rein in the student loan scheme “in a big way”
Couple that with on-going rhetoric from employers that New Zealand must train people so that they have the right skills for work (one, two, three) and the push from Minister of Tertiary Education Steven Joyce to publish graduate income information, and I am starting to see a plan for the government to defund some courses. Student loans are paid to students themselves, but if those loans are only available for people studying particular courses, then in effect, there will be no government support for some courses.
I wonder which courses are for the chop? I’m guessing that the government will rein in the student loans scheme by announcing that it will no longer fund courses in basket weaving and twilight golf. All its favorite punters who didn’t get where they are today by farting around at university doing stuck up degrees will grunt and chuckle about all those academic woofters having to do some real work now, and come the next election, they will clap themselves on the back and vote for Key because he’s a bloody good bloke who got rid of all that namby-pamby stuff. Meanwhile, under the cover of basket weaving and golf, other courses will be black listed too. BA in Sociology? What kind of a job are you going to get with that? Employers don’t want people who know about Weber and Durkheim. No more student loans for people studying sociology, then. And so it will go.
As the government reins in the student loans scheme, watch for changes in the courses for which students can get loans. It will tell you what this government’s priorities are.