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Students release Budget wishlist

22 May 2017

Students release Budget wishlist

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has released a list of changes it says will begin to restore access to tertiary education ahead of this Thursday’s Government Budget announcement. The desired changes come amid findings of student hardship in a recent Unitec survey, as well as NZUSA’s 2017 Income and Expenditure Report.

National President Jonathan Gee said the rising cost of living, in particular skyrocketing rents, were locking out too many New Zealanders from tertiary education.

“There is an increasing poverty of opportunity for many New Zealanders who choose not to enter tertiary study simply because they cannot afford it. The upcoming Budget is also a chance for the Government to provide urgent relief for many students struggling to afford rent, let alone food and other basic needs.’

The average rent price for a room in central Auckland has now exceeded $250, surpassing the maximum Student Allowance and Accommodation Benefit of $218. For the 70% of students locked out of the Student Allowance, rent prices are well above the $178.81 of Student Loan living costs. The situation is similar in Wellington, where the average rent price is approximately $218, up 10% since November 2016 in dramatic contrast to the increase in student support of just $1 in that same period.

Students’ Budget Wishlist:
1. Introduce a housing grant for all students. This grant would be variable to target the cities where weekly rent is consuming over 100% of current levels of student support.
2. Introduce a national First in Family scholarship. This scholarship would be targeted at families with no history of degree-level study. This will increase participation from underrepresented communities in tertiary education.
3. Reform the unfair 12c repayment rate on Student Loans.

People with student loans must repay 12c in the dollar once they start earning $19,136, less than 60% of the annual salary for a minimum wage earner.

Replace it with an Australian-style progressive repayment system so that those on lower incomes pay less and can have enough take home pay to survive.

4. Restore postgraduate allowances. The cut has hurt New Zealanders who should be supported to research and innovate, and is especially significant as teaching qualifications shift to Masters level

5. Raise the parental income threshold on Student Allowance. Only 30% of student have access to the Allowance. Raise the threshold to a reasonable rate so fewer students graduate with unmanageable debt.

6. Restore the national significance exceptions on Student Allowance. Make an exception to the 200-week limit on Allowances, by restoring a category of qualifications of national significance. This would support student pursuing qualifications such as medicine, optometry, dentistry and veterinary science.

7. Restore full access for over-40s to Student Allowances and Allowances and Loans for over-65s. Many New Zealanders enter tertiary education later in life to upskill and retrain. Don’t discriminate against them purely because of their age.

8. Lift the course-related costs loan cap. This has been frozen at $1000 since 1993. Students are getting into bank and credit card debt just to pay for basics like upfront hall costs and necessary educational materials.

NZUSA is the national voice of students in tertiary education. The organisation is governed by students’ associations from universities and polytechnics around the country.

© Scoop Media

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