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Students still waiting for $223 million

4 May 2005

Students still waiting for $223 million the Govt promised

The Government has misled students about changes to the student allowance scheme, the Green Party says.

"The Government has not been honest with students over changes to the student allowance scheme announced in last year's Budget," Green Tertiary Education Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos said.

"As recently as March, the Government was boasting about how these changes would mean $223 million more being paid out in allowances, benefiting 36,000 students. This continued even after the Government had got figures from the Ministry for Social Development showing that this was not true.

"We know that the Social Development Minister was advised by his Ministry in mid-February that far fewer students would be accessing student allowances than previously projected. Students deserve an explanation as to why the Government continued to boast about improvements to the student allowance system when they knew they weren't working."

A report written by the Ministry of Social Development on February 17, released to the New Zealand University Students' Association under the Official Information Act, advised that 22,430-fewer students than forecast had accessed allowances in the October to mid-February period.

However, three weeks later, on March 9, Education Minister Trevor Mallard said, "The government is also investing around $223 million over the next four years to extend access to the Student Allowances Scheme. This is designed to benefit an extra 36,000 students, including 12,000 who will now be eligible for a full allowance."

"Mr Mallard's claim in the House today that the statement was not misleading is sophistry," Nandor said. "The fact is, fewer students are getting an allowance this year than last year. The Government should have owned up to that.

"In addition, the argument that fewer students are applying because they are earning more doesn't hold up. In reality, the number of full allowances was restricted by ending the independent circumstances allowance, while eligibility was increased primarily for partial allowances. Many students don't bother to apply for such token amounts," Nandor said.

Figures released by the Aotearoa Student Press Association on Monday established that the number of students accessing the allowance scheme had decreased since last year's changes.

"Mr Mallard needs to explain what's happened to the $223 million it said it was injecting into the student allowance system," Nandor, who challenged the Minister in Parliament today about the figures, said. "Let's see it go to something that genuinely does benefit students."

Nandor attempted to table an invoice in Parliament for $54 million from the New Zealand University Students' Association, on behalf of the 36,000 students promised student allowances who didn't get them.

"What is needed in the allowance system is universality and simplicity. The Greens propose a Universal Student Allowance, set at the level of the unemployment benefit, for all full-time students."

ENDS

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