Open Letter to Minister Hipkins on Student Support – NZUSA

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Today, the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has sent an open letter to the Minister of Education calling on him to implement a temporary Universal Education Income.

A Universal Education Income (UEI) is a weekly payment that would be available to all students – no matter their age or what they study. It was one of three key asks of the Government in the National Student Action Plan on COVID-19, designed and signed by 50 student organisations from across Aotearoa.

NZUSA National President Andrew Lessells says that “our postgraduate and part-time students are living off food parcels. Hardship funds are not enough, we need more than an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. There needs to be accessible income support for every student in Aotearoa.”

In the open letter student leaders say that “Students are some of the most precarious in society. Their casual jobs have dried up, their one-off jobs have disappeared. They are often not eligible for other income support such as the Wage Subsidy and are forced to borrow to survive”.

In a study conducted by NZUSA in 2020, in partnership with Te Mana Ākonga and Tauira Pasifika, it was estimated that the cost of implementing a UEI would be $2.5 billion.

“We recognise that this is a bold ask, but when our students are struggling to survive, we need bold action. Across Aotearoa thousands of students are considering dropping out because they can’t afford to live. If we want New Zealand to have the skills it needs for the future, we can’t afford to fail them” says Lessells.

A UEI would eliminate the means testing and heavy administration requirements associated with current allowance model. In the model proposed by NZUSA, it would increase the base allowance by $75 to truly reflect the cost of living for students.

“We want to work with Government to make sure students can afford to survive. But they need to listen to the voices of students that are crying out. There is not enough support for those in tertiary education and every student knows this. The Minister needs to wake up to this reality and help us” says Lessells.

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The open letter can be read here: https://www.students.org.nz/s/Open-Letter-for-Minister-Hipkins-Student-Support-During-COVID-19.pdf

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