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Study Shows 15% of Students in “Absolute Financial Distress”

Study Shows 15% of Students in “Absolute Financial Distress”.

Approximately fifteen percent (15%) of the New Zealand university student population suffers from “absolute financial distress”. That’s a key finding from the Baseline Report of the Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand (GLSNZ) that was released this month.

The GLSNZ conducted baseline sampling of nearly 9,000 students in their final year across the eight New Zealand universities between July and December 2011. It is designed to follow these graduates over the next ten years, principally to inform policy makers interested in the contribution tertiary education makes to the national good. The GLSNZ was commissioned by Universities New Zealand – Te Pokai Tara with main funding support from the Tertiary Education Commission, it was carried out by the internationally-respected National Centre for Lifecourse Research (NCLR) – a multi-university group headquartered at the University of Otago and led by Centre Co-Director Professor Richie Poulton.

The study asked students about their financial situation and coded the results according to the internationally respected “Economic Strain Model”. It found that as many as 1 in 6 students reported that they did not have enough money for their basic accommodation, clothing and food requirements.

“This finding is striking – yet re-enforces what the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations has been saying regarding widespread student poverty, and confirms the findings of our own independent Student Income and Expenditure Survey - released in 2011. How are students meant to succeed in their studies if they don’t have the basic means to survive?” said Arena Williams, Vice President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Association.

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NZUSA believes the findings show an overwhelming need for a lift in allowance rates, an expansion of allowances to those who are currently ineligible due to their parents’ income – but whose parents cannot actually support them – or, at the very least, an increase in how much students can borrow for living expenses.

One-third of full-time, full year, New Zealand students currently access allowances. The maximum entitlement per week for a student (aged under 24, without children, and living away from home) is $170.80. Those ineligible, or who get a partial allowance, can borrow through the Student Loans Scheme up to $172.51 per week. Those on the full allowance can borrow the $1.71 difference.

“$170 a week isn't a living allowance. You did well in the summer rental rush if that covers your rent in a damp student flat. Even when students are really struggling, their parents aren't in a position to support them. The assumption that all students under 24 have parental support is ludicrous”, said Ms Williams.

NZUSA is the national representative body for tertiary students and has been advocating on student issues since 1929.


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