Private tertiary institutions are warning they could lose a quarter of their business if the new government cuts work visas for some foreign students.
During the election, the Labour Party said it would reduce the number of foreigners on student and work visas by 20-30,000.
It said it would limit study and work visas for students on low-value courses and remove work visas for students who had no job offers on completion of low-value courses.
The plan followed a boom in Indian student enrolments, which was accompanied by fraud in visa applications, a government crack-down on dodgy courses and exploitation of students by employers.
Christine Clark from the main group representing private institutions, Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand, said the Labour Party was wrongly assuming that low-level courses were low-quality.
She told Nine to Noon courses below degree-level were valuable to the economy because they provided essential skills.
Mrs Clark said if the government followed through on Labour's election promises, private institutions could lose a quarter of their business and polytechnics would be hurt too.
"The sector's really, really worried," she said.
"If it happens as has been implied we would estimate up to 10,000 job losses, that's a billion dollars going out of the economy," she said.
Clare Bradley, the chief executive of the Aspire 2 group of tertiary institutions, told Nine To Noon foreign enrolments in the private sector were worth about $1 billion a year to the economy in fees and spending on living costs.
"We can't really afford to let that investment wither," Ms Bradley said.
"What we're urging is caution on change, particularly sudden change, a view of international education as separate from overall immigration policy settings."
Ms Bradley said post-study work rights were important for attracting students to New Zealand.