As students arrive at campuses around the country, facing significant costs throughout the year ahead, the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations is providing a timely reminder of the injustice that sees students as the only group in society expected to borrow to live.
“On top of spiralling fees, most students do not qualify for living allowances and are therefore faced with accruing significant debt in order to learn,” said Pete Hodkinson, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA). “No other group faces an expectation that they borrow to meet basic living costs while they are not fully in paid work,” added Hodkinson.
“While good for the student, a tertiary education brings significant benefits to society and for the economy. An educated workforce is a more productive workforce; all students should therefore be adequately supported and not have to borrow to live,” said Hodkinson.
NZUSA’s concerns come in the same week that a Student Job Search survey has revealed many graduates are considering leaving New Zealand due to limited job prospects and worries about future employment.
“The Minister of Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce, suggests their wages and salaries after graduating mean today’s students will be able to afford to pay off the debt they will have to accrue in order to get a tertiary education. But with graduates considering leaving due to limited job prospects and many professions requiring at least a degree qualification but only delivering average wages, it is not reasonable to argue that loans are justified due to future income prospects,” said Hodkinson.
NZUSA’s independently commissioned survey reveals financial stress as a major issue for many students, with 56 percent of students worried about their financial situation and its effect on their study, as shown in the 2010 Student Income & Expenditure Survey.
“We believe that supporting all students up front with a living allowance is the most efficient and fair way to foster higher learning for all, and would help avoid the many negative consequences of student debt. Those lucky few who currently receive allowances often cite this as the only reason they can study. Those who are kept out of study or are struggling due to the high cost of education and debt associated with it also deserve such support,” concluded Hodkinson.
NZUSA is the national representative body for tertiary students and has been advocating on student issues since 1929.