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Students Protest happening at 1pm today.

Media Release Update – 24 May 2012 – For Immediate Use

Students Protest happening at 1pm today.

The Auckland University Students' Association is calling for students to protest against the expected changes in the Budget that will leave many students unable to fund their study next year.

"The Minister hasn't made it clear, but it seems that around 5000 students in the system right now will find they're unable to get student allowances to finish their degrees," said Arena Williams, President of the Auckland University Students' Association.

The 2012 Budget will make it more difficult for students to access student allowances. The parental income threshold will be cut in real terms, and current "long course" exemptions to the 200-week limit on receiving the allowance will be removed. This means that students from low-income studying courses such as medicine, architecture and postgraduate courses may not be able to access financial support for the full length of their degree.

"The system is already incredibly restrictive" said AUSA Education Vice-President, Sam Bookman. "To receive a full allowance of $206 per week, unless they are over 24 students have to come from a family with a combined income of less than $55,000 per year. The pre-budget announcement indicates that low-income students who want to study in these prestigious courses may be forced to rethink their options. Because the pre-budget announcement did not fully disclose how the new regime will work, students have had an anxious couple of weeks to work out how the cuts will affect them."

In addition to the cuts to student allowances, Budget 2012 will make things harder for graduates."The government is proposing to alter pre-existing student loan contracts, to change the repayment rate from 10% to 12%. That seems like a small increase, but it hits recent graduates hard, at a time in their lives when they're not earning much and they're trying to get on to the first rungs of a tough New Zealand career ladder." Williams said. Recent studies, such as the Graduate Longitudinal Survey, have demonstrated how low graduate wages are. Adding a further 2% increase to the repayment rate will further lower take-home pay.

"In order for students to earn a wage that will allow them to pay of their student loan and save for their future, they are bound to look offshore." noted Bookman. Last month, a record number of 4,500 New Zealanders left for Australia. "Graduates will continue to flee, as they feel more and more disenfranchised in a system which doesn't value them."

The 'Blockade the Budget' protest will be held at 1pm on Thursday 24 May. Hip-hop group Home Brew will perform during the protest, and MPs are invited to address the assembled students.


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