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Increase government support to stop students going hungry

Increase government support to stop students going hungry

MAY 18, 2017

Students at Unitec are regularly going without food or other necessities because they cannot afford them, according to a survey of students by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

The survey results have reignited calls on National to increase student support.

With the budget announced next Thursday, NZUSA is calling on Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith to increase the inadequate $218 Student Allowance.

Half of those surveyed, including two-thirds of Māori students, said their income was not enough to cover their living costs at some stage in the past year.

Two-thirds said they had “seriously considered” dropping out of study due to financial or work-study-life pressures. For Māori students, nearly half considered withdrawing before course completion.

“Tertiary study should be a way out of poverty, not a way into it. What the survey results show is that the cost of study is a huge disincentive for many to continue with tertiary education,” Jonathan Gee, national president of NZUSA, said.

Unitec is the country’s biggest campus-based polytechnic with 9,100 fulltime-equivalent students. In some cases staff have been asked to donate food and linen to help students struggling to pay rising rents and other living costs.

Sharn Riggs, national secretary of the TEU, said: “These findings are deeply worrying and expose National’s failure to make sure student support keeps pace with rising living costs. If student support continues to stagnate then tertiary education faces the very real risk of becoming a luxury only a few can afford. We cannot let that happen.”

Many students expect to make their own financial contribution on top of support from the Government. However, half of full-time students at Unitec are now working more than 15 hours a week to makes ends meet, meaning that paid work is affecting students’ academic success.

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