New tertiary education students wishing to have one year of free education are being encouraged to apply by December 16.
The Government is fast-tracking its tertiary education campaign promises, with the Cabinet now in the detailed planning stage to introduce one year of free tertiary education for new students, and a $50 weekly boost to the student allowance as well as a $50 weekly boost in student loans for living costs.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the policies will come into force by January 1 next year.
"Prospective students and tertiary education organisations should continue to make arrangements for study and enrolments for next year as they normally would. This includes starting, or continuing, any applications for study and/or for student loans or allowances," Hipkins said.
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"StudyLink is encouraging prospective students to apply by 16 December and to provide their supporting documents promptly to ensure their applications are sorted for the start of the 2018 academic year."
The fees-free policy will apply to new university students, as well as apprenticeships, industry training and polytechnic students - anyone who has not previously studied at tertiary level.
The policy will be extended to two years free in 2021, and three years free in 2024 - or more rapidly, if conditions permit. The extra student support is expected to cost an additional $270m a year, and the first year of free tertiary education will cost $340 million.
"Students, schools and tertiary providers are understandably keen to know full details," Hipkins said.
"We will make sure they get the information they need in a timely way. In the meantime they can rest assured that the first year of fees free study will kick in next year and should plan accordingly."