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Students Launch Campaign For Universal Study Wage; Call For Government Ministers To Honour Their Roots

Otago and Victoria University students associations

Students are calling for the Government to urgently implement a Study Wage for All to provide debt-free living cost support to all tertiary students.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Minister of Finance Grant Robertson once campaigned for the expansion of the student allowance scheme and better Government support to alleviate student debt and hardship; Hipkins as the President of the Victoria University of Wellington Students Association and Robertson as President of the Otago University Students Association and National Union of Students Associations. Now their successors at VUWSA and OUSA are calling for Hipkins and Robertson to return to their roots, in the current context of worsening student poverty and debt.

Jessica Ye, President of Te Aka Tauira -Victoria University of Wellington Students Association says, “The petition we’ve just launched is not an isolated action but emerges from a whakapapa of resistance against privatisation reforms in tertiary education and student poverty, resistance which our political leaders have their roots in.”

The current student allowance scheme is strictly means-tested and provides debt-free living cost support to 12% of tertiary students. Other students can receive up to $302.32 weekly in living cost payments which add to their student loan.

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The 2022 People’s Inquiry into Student Wellbeing reported that about two thirds of students regularly do not have enough money to cover their basic living costs. Data from Stats NZ shows that, compared to the total adult population, people in study or training are twice as likely to have ‘not enough money’ to meet everyday needs.

Quintin Jane, President of the Otago University Students Association says, “Student poverty is the product of the political choices of successive governments, representative of the wider disregard of student issues.”

Jessica Ye says, “A Study Wage also recognises that learning is an inherently valuable contribution to society. Valuing education as a public good means that we must see a more sustainable funding model for tertiary institutions and make tertiary education accessible to all. The tertiary underfunding crisis and student poverty crisis go hand in hand.”

Quintin Jane says, “With universities experiencing declining enrolments and retention as a result of cost-of-living pressures, now is the time to support our students to support our universities. A Study Wage for All means students won’t have to choose between getting an education and supporting themselves financially.”

VUWSA and OUSA have launched a petition for a Study Wage for all and will be advocating for political candidates to commit to the policy in the lead-up to the General Election.

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