Students deeply concerned at support cuts   3 May 2012

Students concern at recent changes to student support has been worsened by today’s announcements. Minister of Tertiary Education Stephen Joyce has confirmed the following changes:

• The recent incentives for voluntary student loan repayments will be rescinded;
• An earlier signalled rise the student loan repayment threshold, moving it to 12%;
• An earlier-announced freeze in the parental income threshold for the student allowance has been extended to four years; and
• Student allowances will only be available in the first four years of tertiary study.

Earlier, students had expressed dismay at the increase in the student loan repayment threshold. On Wednesday, President of Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA), Arena Williams, noted that “The current repayment rate for student loan borrowers of 10% is already high. Graduates earn less than the mean full time wage in their first five - ten years of work. The system punishes people who're trying hard to get ahead in their careers and don't have disposable income."

Moving the repayment rate to 12% means that New Zealand’s repayment rate is now three times the base rate of Australia, and will affect not only future, but also present students. With wages currently well below those in Australia, students fear that more graduates will head overseas. “New Zealand wages are already low. To effectively institute a 2% tax increase on anyone earning over $19,084 per year will inevitably result in more graduates heading overseas to ensure they can earn a wage which leaves them with some disposable income”, said Ms Williams.

The changes to the student allowances scheme are also of grave concern. Student allowances provide support to students from low-income backgrounds For a student under 24 to receive the allowance, their parents combined income must be less than $55,026. Today’s changes amount to a cut in real terms. Freezing the threshold so that it doesn’t account for inflation risks shutting deserving students out of tertiary education, according to Ms Williams. "These cuts to student allowances will limit eligibility. Simply put, students who have the potential to achieve top results in tertiary education won't be able to study. These kids lose and their communities lose."

Research has found that up to 15% of students are in dire financial difficulty.[1] "We are frequently approached by students seeking financial support and even food parcels," said Sam Bookman, Education Vice-President of AUSA. "Even at the full allowance of $206.73, it's very difficult to afford rent, food and textbooks. Everyone from the University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor to the Prime Minister's own Chief Science Advisor have expressed concern that Auckland University's international ranking is slipping. However, if students are placed under this kind of financial stress, it's inevitable that their grades and research are being affected"

There is also considerable concern at the previously unannounced intention to restrict student allowances to only the first four years of tuition. “Many University courses are longer than four years,” said Ms Williams. “The effect of this announcement is to discourage low-income students from entering courses such as medicine and optometry, as well as conjoint degrees.”

Concern has also been expressed at the effect the budget may have on Maori and Pacific students. "Universities around the country are putting in efforts to recruit higher numbers of Maori and Pacific students," noted Pania Newton, co-President of Nga Tauira Maori, Auckland University Maori Students' Association. "It's unfair to tell these students that they should be entering tertiary education to do better for their families and communities, but not providing the support required to get them there."

According to Ms Williams, the changes will undermine New Zealand's reputation as a country where fairness is rewarded, and equality of access is strived for. "It's the government's role to facilitate equitable access. New Zealanders won't accept a tertiary system which only allows kids from rich families to succeed. If we need to pay for allowances to get clever kids through so that they can contribute to the economy that my generation will be left to manage, then that's money well spent."

The recent announcements follow a pattern of gradual reduction in Government support for students groups. Past cuts have targeted solo parents, older students, recent migrants and those in long-term study.

[1] Baseline Report of the Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand (GLSNZ).

(AUSA)

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share

Your Comments:

left by Mike Cole 4 May 2012

Without doubt the current attitude of Government and some employers and people in NZ toward students and tertiary education is short-sighted and will only harm this country.

It is time to accept that tertiary education is critical right now especially nwhere qualifications and regulataion are the key buzz words.

We should be helping students to study for the long term benefit of NZ - heck why don't we as a nation "allow" students who work full time for [say] 5 years in NZ immediately after qualifying to have their debts written off by the Government.

How the heck do we expect young people to make tehir way in the working world when they start with such high debts - it stops them buying tehir first home, probably from amrrying and simply encourages them to work off-shore.

Come on NZ and those muppets in the Beehive - this is ALL our future!

News

Terror in Canada: There were gunmen on roof says Kiwi

24 Oct 2014 News
Ottawa resident says shock turning to anger and hard questions being asked about how gunman got so far. A New Zealander in Ottawa was... more

NZ Government Urged to Do More to Fight Ebola

24 Oct 2014 News
New Zealand Government Save the Children Urges the NZ Government to Do More to Fight Ebola As Ebola continues to tear through West... more

Business

Sky TV to launch $20/month subscription ondemand service

24 Oct 2014 Business News
By Fiona Rotherham Oct. 24 (BusinessDesk) - Sky Network Television, the country's dominant pay-TV operator, will launch a new $20 a... more

Jade chases growth of 30-50% for Master Terminal

24 Oct 2014 Business News
By Paul McBeth Oct. 23 (BusinessDesk) - Jade Software, which took its intelligence software developer Wynyard Group public last... more

Living

My Kitchen Rules contestants: Hear us raw

24 Oct 2014 Food & Wine
Fresh from two consecutive MKR People's Choice Challenge wins, Neena and Belinda favour wholesome and earthy flavours and aim to... more

Kiwi comics destroy world record for chart-topping podcast

24 Oct 2014 Lifestyle
  New Zealand comedians Guy Montgomery (Billy T winner, 7 Days) and Tim Batt (Radio Hauraki, 7 Days) have broken the world record... more

Property

Double-digit rate increases loom

24 Oct 2014 Property
Aucklanders living in the ‘hottest suburbs’ could be the big losers, while businesses will come out winners Rate rises... more

Reform of RMA critical to reforming housing affordability

15 Oct 2014 Property
The Resource Management Act needs to explicitly recognise the importance of New Zealanders’ access to more affordable housing... more

Migration

New Zealand Named The Best Place For Raising Children

24 Oct 2014 Migration
New Zealand has been named the best place to raise a child in the Raising Children Abroad annual league table. According to the HSBC... more

Desperate employers keeping overstayers

24 Oct 2014 Migration
Desperate employers seeking to fill job shortages are keeping migrant workers who previously held a work visa in New Zealand... more

Travel

Air New Zealand's GENIUS Hobbit themed safety video

24 Oct 2014 Travel & Tourism
Giving flyers an Unexpected Journey! Elijah Wood and Sir Peter Jackson star in 'epic' Hobbit themed Air New Zealand safety video Air... more

Travel 'interns wanted' to tour 2000km of NZ

24 Oct 2014 Travel & Tourism
Forget a summer internship of fetching coffee and photocopying - a travel company is offering a $30,000, 10-day, 2000km tour of New... more

Sport

Black Sticks Women in position to win the series

25 Oct 2014 Sport
The Black Sticks Women have won 1-0 against the USA, setting up a series decider in the final test tomorrow at the Trust House... more

Kiwi to play against All Blacks in November Test Series

24 Oct 2014 Rugby
Scotland coach Vern Cotter clears out old guard and makes Grant Gilchrist captain for November Test series No place for Barclay,... more

Columns

At last! Hope for St James Theatre

24 Oct 2014 Opinion By Brian Rudman
After all the delays and stonewalling, the St James finally looks to have a future, even if it’s not clear what it will be Let's... more

Gordon Campbell: tokenism of NZ‘s role against Islamic State

23 Oct 2014 Opinion By Gordon Campbell
Gordon Campbell on the tokenism of New Zealand‘s role against Islamic State Was John Key born lucky or what? Political... more

Kiwi Success

Jim Hickey hangs up his umbrella

24 Oct 2014 People
Veteran weathercaster Jim Hickey has announced his retirement today, saying is was a tough decision. "I feel like I'm subbing off at... more

Corban honoured by Institute of Directors

17 Oct 2014 Appointments
Institute Of Directors Local businessman Brian Corban was made a Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Directors yesterday, in a... more

Recruitment

UK ambulance service poaches Kiwi paramedics

24 Oct 2014 Recruitment
New Zealand paramedics are being poached by Britain's busiest ambulance service. Interviews were held in Auckland on Friday and... more

NZ job market expected to strengthen - survey

24 Oct 2014 Recruitment
The job market is expected to strengthen and potential employees are increasingly looking at staying in New Zealand for work instead... more