A recent survey by Unitec Institute of Technology has renewed calls by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) for an urgent increase in student support.
The Unitec survey found that a third of students seriously considered dropping out mainly due to financial or work-study-life pressures. For Maori students, nearly half consider withdrawal before course completion.
“Tertiary study should be a way out of poverty, not a way into it. What the Unitec survey results show is that the cost of study is a huge disincentive for many to continue with tertiary education,” says NZUSA National President Jonathan Gee.
The survey also found that over half of students (55%) have not had enough income to meet their living costs at some stage in the last 12 months. Over two-thirds of Maori students (68%) expressed the same struggle. In a comparable study, NZUSA’s recent Income and Expenditure Report found that a third of students did not have enough income to meet their basic needs, showing that the situation is getting worse.
Almost a third of students (31%) reported that they regularly go without food or other necessities because they cannot afford them.
“Student hardship has reached breaking point. It’s getting particularly worse for those who are the first in their families to study in tertiary education. It’s also getting worse for those studying in Auckland, where the average rent price for a room has now exceeded $250,” Gee said.
The survey results have reignited calls for increases in student support. With the Government announcing their Budget late next week, students have a clear message for Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith.
“The Unitec survey is clear evidence that too many students are struggling to afford even the basic necessities of life. We strongly urge Minister Joyce and Minister Goldsmith to increase the $218 Student Allowance (including Accommodation Benefit) so that it at least covers the rent of the 40% of tertiary students living in Auckland,” Gee said.
Gee added, “Minister Goldsmith has previously said that he expects students should make their own financial contribution on top of support from the Government. When over half of full-time students at Unitec are working more than 15 hours a week, we think that the balance has been well-exceeded with paid work affecting student academic success.”