Media release: 16 May 2013
Government writes off worth of tertiary education for 'older' New Zealanders
The Government’s obsession with putting a sinking lid on student support will hit the educational aspirations of all New Zealanders aged over 40 as a result of today’s Budget, says the NZ Union of Students’ Association (NZUSA).
“Today is a black day for the 1.4 million New Zealanders who are in that age group, and an even blacker day for more than half a million New Zealanders aged over 65 who will become ineligible for student allowance grants from next year,” says Pete Hodkinson, NZUSA President.
“Drastically cutting the length of time that adults aged between 40 and 64 can access this basic level of student support before taking on debt clearly penalises and discriminates against people on the basis of their age, at the same time as generally devaluing the worth of undertaking tertiary education.
“Even ignoring the blatant age discrimination the economics don’t really stack up. Our understanding is this decision is projected to make a negligible difference to the Government’s short-term finances, not even allowing for the cost of implementing the change.
“What this really exposes is a Government that is more focused on penny pinching than building any forward thinking momentum in our tertiary education system,” says Pete Hodkinson.
“It sends a signal to workers who have invested in the tax system throughout their lives that they can expect to be short-changed when they look to gain new qualifications at a higher level. The principle at stake here isn’t about the estimated number of people who will be affected, rather the principle at stake is that student support should be available to all students.
“It is particularly concerning that this decision is going to dampen opportunities for people to contribute to New Zealand’s economy and society when they are just entering their prime years of activity in the workforce.
“It makes even worse sense to deny second learners who are working towards a second chance qualification, people generally without deep financial reserves or who may be recovering from a redundancy or similar, from pursuing new opportunities in the workforce”.
NZUSA is seeking more information on the analysis of the 925 people expected to be directly affected by the student allowance cuts in 2014. Concerns have already been received from student associations about students who will still be completing studies when the 120 week student allowance limit is applied. Without any transitional period they may be forced to drop out of their studies.