Forty-two tertiary students’ associations across Aotearoa, supported by the three National Students’ Associations - the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations, Te Mana Ākonga and Tauira Pasifika - have come together to develop the National Student Action Plan on COVID-19.
The plan covers what tertiary students require from the Government and their tertiary providers to get through this very uncertain time.
The plan includes four requests of the Government, which need to be made available to all tertiary students - full time and part time, graduate and undergraduate. This includes people who are currently ineligible for StudyLink support because of their age.
These four demands of the Government are:
- As a temporary measure, extend the existing Student Allowance to all domestic students.
- Create a COVID-19 Hardship Fund to provide relief for tertiary students seeking cover for emergency COVID-19-related costs. This could include, but not limited to emergency transport costs, bereavement costs, emergency technology costs including the cost of purchasing a device and internet packages for students currently without.
- Include tertiary students in the Winter Energy Package.
- Increase funding for online mental health support to ensure that students remain supported during a period of isolation.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Association President Isabella Lenihan-Ikin says that “students are finding themselves in a very vulnerable financial position. The amount they receive through StudyLink is insufficient to cover essential living costs at the best of times, let along when students are losing their employment.”
Mamaeroa Merito, Co-Tumuaki of Te Mana Ākonga says “... We are looking for reassurance for our Tauira from the Government during this trying time. Whilst we are supportive of the Government doubling the Winter Energy Package, increasing the benefit by $25 per week and introducing a 6-month mortgage holiday, students haven’t seen any Government support during this time” Mamaeroa says.
Deborah, a mature student studying at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology was relying on her part time job to met the shortfall between the student allowance and her rent. Students who lose their jobs in this situation face financial insecurity.
Deborah said “when I rang StudyLink I was told that they were receiving many similar calls from students in the same situation and were waiting to see if the Government was going to make any announcement to alleviate this situation.”
“The lack of financial support for students could mean that students abandon their studies and apply for the Job Seeker Benefit, because on this benefit students would receive the $25 increased and the Winter Energy Payment allowing them to pay their rent and power bills while they have no job” she says.
Ali Leota President of Tauira Pasifika says “ Pasifika communities already have odds stacked against them. With a loss of employment and not being able to meet StudyLink criteria, many Pasifika students are finding basic living and the procurement of essential necessities a real challenge. This needs to be at the forefront, otherwise we risk having more students fall through the cracks. We have the leadership, but we are looking for financial support and stability over this uncertain period”
NZUSA President Isabella Lenihan-Ikin says “This is the time that the Government needs to ensure that students are supported to remain in their studies.”
“The Government needs to get real about the financial insecurity students face, and implement urgent measures to support them.”