On the 21st of May NZUSA, the national student union, released its wishlist for the Government’s Budget on behalf of New Zealand’s 400,000 students. Desired changes include reversing National’s worst cuts and immediate support for accommodation in the cities hardest hit by the housing affordability crisis.
National president Rory McCourt said out of control rents were taking away opportunity to study for too many bright New Zealanders.
“After seven years of cuts to tertiary education and the double whammy of a housing crisis: it’s time the Government made changes to give Kiwis more opportunity, not less.”
Rents rose by an average of 6.3% in the year to May, according to TradeMe. The average student now pays $218.16 for a room in Auckland (up $8.26 on last year), and $188.70 in Wellington (up $11.52).
One of NZUSA’s initiatives received unlikely support from the Taxpayer’s Union, Stuff.co.nz reports. Union head Jordan Williams said he supported the idea in principle. McCourt welcomed Williams’ comments to Fairfax that “targeting those who don't come from a family where tertiary education is the norm could be a very effective way to bring lower socioeconomic groups out of the poverty cycle.”
Students’ Budget Wishlist 2015:
1. Restore postgraduate allowances. The cut hasn’t saved money, but it has hurt the students who should be supported to research and innovate. The number of postgrad students taking on debt to pay for basics like rent has shot up by 32.62% since the change
2. Introduce a universal housing grant in cities where weekly rent is gobbling up more than 70% of student income.
3. Begin adequately funding universities and polytechnics so that they stop passing cost rises onto students.
4. Scrap the unfair 12c repayment rate that kicks in at $19,800. Replace it with an Australian-style progressive repayment system so those that can pay, do and those that can’t can have enough take home pay to survive.
5. Introduce a $10,000 national First in Family Scholarship. To break the cycle of the poverty of opportunity and encourage students from families with no history of degree level study to participate in degree-level tertiary education. It’s the cheapest way of ensuring rising levels of participation in the transformative experience of tertiary education. Good for students, even better for underrepresented communities.
6. Lift the course related costs loan cap (frozen since 1993) to $10,000 for first-year students and $3,000 for other students. Students are getting into bank and credit card debt just to pay for basics like upfront hall costs and art supplies. It’s about access.
7. Restore full access for over-40s to student allowances, and access to allowances and loans for over-65s. This is age discrimination and may be illegal under the UN Human Rights Convention.
8. Restore the national significance exceptions to the 200-week limit on student allowances, by restoring a category of qualifications of national significance where students could have access to further years of allowances based on the qualification sought. Cutting this has hit medical students hardest, who take longer than six years to complete their degree. They shouldn’t have the rug pulled from under them when still completing their first degree.
9. Begin to lift the parental income threshold again (frozen since 2008) so that more students, not less, can receive student allowances. Since 2012 there has been a 20 per cent reduction in the number of students eligible for allowances.
10. Stop shafting students, please xo