Reading the New Zealand Herald from the 1st of June will be a slap in the face for most Auckland students, who are struggling to pay out of control rents and face a lifetime of never entering the property ladder thanks to crushing debt.
National student union president Rory McCourt says while no one begrudges student Brandon Lipman his success, his options to work full time and save rent-free while studying were not available to most students.
“Most students in Auckland pay over $200 a week in rent for a single room in a flat, plus food and power. Mr Lipman has saved well over $20,800 by living at home for free with his parents for two years.”
The Herald did not go into whether Mr Lipman was borrowing living costs, as most students do to pay for basics like rent, accruing about $21,115 of debt over their three-year degree.
Again, the Herald did not disclose whether Mr Lipman was borrowing to pay university tuition fees. For the overwhelming majority (74 per cent) of students who do borrow for fees, the average borrowing amount is $27,075 for a three-year degree.
On those figures, Mr McCourt says, most students leave university about $50,000 in the red.
Mr McCourt says most students work an average of 17 hours a week, in addition to full-time study. But the opportunity to work full-time, even at nights, was not available to everyone.
“If you’re on a nursing, teaching or medical placement, you can’t do that placement as well study as well as work full-time.”
“Students are already working too many hours. We as taxpayers support tertiary education to the tune of billions of dollars so students can focus on their studies and get the skills to contribute back. Tertiary education should not be a low-wage employment subsidy.”
Mr McCourt warned that stories like the Herald's could misrepresent the reality of student life and the prospects of the next generation.
“Things have changed since our parent’s generation. There’s constant assessment, part-time jobs don’t pay what they did, rent has tripled as a share of student income and summer jobs barely get you through the summer –let alone paying for fees. That’s on top of the $14 billion student debt millstone.”
“Most students are wondering how they’ll afford next week’s rent or ever pay back their mounting loan. Mr Lipman’s story is the exception, not the reality.”
“It’s not about hard work anymore. It’s about whether making the Kiwi dream even adds up for the next generation. The toxic mix of high rents, big debt and insane house prices means for the majority, it doesn't.” says McCourt.
Note: Borrowing figures are taken from the Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2014. Rent figures are taken from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s bond database. Student work hour figures are taken from the NZUSA Tertiary Student Income and Expenditure Survey 2014.