Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Study in New Zealand

Yes, I am "going back to school." I keep calling this my Mid-life Crisis, which is kind of a joke because it doesn't feel like a crisis, but also kind of fitting because I've had a real shift in my goals and perspective and it's starting to show. In the past month or two I've quit my job, got a tattoo, and enrolled in a Massage Certificate programme - a complete shift of focus for me.

Which brings us to today's topic.

This being my first venture in tertiary education here in my adoptive country, I have learned a little bit about how these things work in New Zealand.

I admit I still don't understand the complex testing system which high school students take and which somehow has specific consequences for what types of university programmes they can get into. But I can now tell you something about finances.

First, there's student loans. I applied for one last week. Just about anyone can get one, and here is how it works: You take out the loan, the special government agency that handles such things then pays your enrolment fees and can also pay you for course-related costs (in my case, that's mainly a massage table). Once you graduate, your loan account gets handed over to the IRD (it's like the IRS). This loan is completely interest free. And you don't have to pay it back 'til you start making over a certain amount of money (about $18,000 a year). THEN you just have to repay 10% of your current income until it's paid off. It doesn't matter how long it takes. Just 10% of your earnings taken right out of your pay check by the IRD. It's that easy.

Oh, but it does not, in fact, end there. Here's a brand new term: Student Allowances. How these work is a little simpler: the government gives you money. And you don't owe them anything ever. Yes, my friends, the government will actually PAY you to go to university! Now, how much you get depends on your income as well as your partner's. I my case I don't qualify for any because of Loren's income, and because of my age (partner's income doesn't count if you're under 23). But the average student just out of high school will get somewhere between $50 and $150 per week, depending on their parent's circumstances. Now that is pretty great.

For an adult student, the whole system is still pretty neat. But for a parent trying to send their kid to university, well, it's pretty damn amazing.


d said...

It IS amazing!

Also, there is a cap on the student loan amount over a certain wage ($85k or so).

AND - the prohibitive part of this scheme is that if a person leaves NZ to do an OE, the loan suddenly attracts interest. Just one way of keeping young, intelligent people here in NZ!

Heather said...

Yes, but only if you are gone for 6 months or more. They just want to make sure you come back!

TJ said...

My wife and I (from the US) just got our NZ permanent residency approved and have been looking at some schooling when we get there in a few months.

I had discovered the loan and allowance programs a while back and was floored. Coming from the US, where you are expected to dig yourself hopelessly in debt to go to school, this was almost unbelievable. I guess this is what your tax dollars buy you when your don't spend so much money on war and defense.

Heather said...

TJ - Congratulations to you and your wife for getting your PR. Yes, it is nice to know my tax dollars now go towards useful things like education and healthcare.

TJ said...

We have really enjoyed reading about your experiences in NZ. Soon we will be having our own.

Not sure if you are willing to talk more about your life there so far, but here is my e-mail if you would like to:


We have been talking to as many people as possible while researching this move to get as much perspective as possible.

Take Care.