Earlier this year it was reported that 79 per cent of students feel their debt will have a large impact on their ability to put away money for their retirement.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Association (NZUSA) released significant findings from its 2017 Income and Expenditure Report earlier this year. This showed the national student loan balance exceeds $15 billion. Consequently, student hardship doesn’t seem like it will improve in the near future.
The government has reduced their support and parental support is often unavailable too. Because only 33 per cent of students are entitled to the student allowance, more students have to borrow money in order to live.
Course related costs at $1000, established in 1993, have not seen any change. Students now use this money meant for textbooks and stationery to pay for things like start up costs for rent as prices continue to climb in areas such as Wellington and Auckland.
Massive Magazine’s Jamie-Lee Bracken, compares the difference in living conditions across Massey University’s Albany, Manawatu and Wellington campuses, looking at the cost of general living, and the effect it has on students.
Bachelor of Arts student, Clarisse Harman, is about to finish her degree. She says she’s lost sleep over the pressure she feels to afford her bills with her current job that gives her 22 hours a week of work.
Her pay doesn’t cover her rent, power and food, so she has had to look for another job.
Per semester rent can cost as much as $2200 depending on how the tenancy is established says Harman. Previously, her rent covered power, internet and water and she says stress wasn’t so prevalent but now, she pays rent, power, internet and water separately so she does feel more stressed.
“It has made me be aware of how much of everything I use and try to save power and water as much as I can,” says Harman.
In her flat of three people, water costs between $7 to $14 each a month and power is roughly $50 to $80 each a month.
Harman would love to see better living circumstances but understands this might not be a possibility.
“The area I live in and due to population growth and demand of housing, prices are always gonna be expensive,” she says.
She says even though Studylink covers her tuition fees, her living costs cover rent, and her course related costs cover the required textbooks, at times things were still hard especially when it came to juggling work, study and a personal life.
Harman says she has found the balance where her grades didn’t have to suffer. But she still gets stressed during the lead up to a new bill.
Harman says she has had to prioritise what is important and even though at times she feels financial stress about whether she can afford certain things which can distract her attention to study, she doesn’t regret studying at the Albany campus.
Harman says since moving away from home she has learnt to budget, pay bills on time and ensure she is succeeding in her studies and keeps healthy even though things are often quite expensive.
“I am not going to lie and say its been easy, it has been difficult and I am reminded of that every time I look at my student loan, but it has been amazing and I have met some incredible people along the way.”
Bachelor of Science student, Shannon Cassidy, loves that the Manawatu campus is cheaper than other places, with a nice campus and lots of student support in a heavily student dominated city.
She thinks that rent at the Manawatu campus is super cheap and affordable.
Even though the condition and “niceness” of available flats influences price, Cassidy says her four bedroom flat that is less than 10 years old is double glazed, has two bathrooms, off street parking and a heat pump.
Her flat also lies within a small community of flats managed by Massey University’s Student’s Association (MUSA) and she only pays $110 a week.
Cassidy says her rent each semester is roughly $1320. Full rent must also be paid over the seven weeks during mid- semester and mid-year breaks when Cassidy isn’t even living at her flat.
“I can’t just spend money without deeply thinking if it’s vital or necessary,” she says.
Cassidy says right not her financial stress isn’t extreme but she thinks her financial situation will be a burden in the future.
“I could be saving all this money for future things, but instead weekly I have to spend in excess $300 to live,” says Cassidy.
Having had a gap year, Cassidy’s savings have allowed her to not have a current job to focus on study more, but she knows in the future she will need to get one and this is something she finds stressful.
Because Cassidy wants to get into the Bachelor of Veterinary Science programme, she had no choice but to study at the Manawatu Campus. If it were a degree offered on other campuses, she would have lived at home.
“It’s disheartening watching money from my savings being used for power, food, rent, my car petrol/insurance, gas and internet, when for my whole life I didn’t have to worry about that,” she says.
Cassidy says the majority of people would agree money is a major factor of stress, especially having the future burden of a student loan.
She says it is stressful knowing that every week more money is being automatically added to her student loan without her really noticing.
“It’s a burden knowing one day I will have to pay that all off as well as a mortgage and pay for kids one day.”
Bachelor of Communications student, Elizaebth Samuels, says house prices are ridiculous considering the poor housing options that the city offers.
Being a full time student complicates things, says Samuels, as it’s not possible to work enough in order to make sure you are making a comfortable living while also studying full time.
Each semester Samuels pays around $3240 in rent. In periods where students are jobless it can be extremely stressful, she says.
Originally from Christchurch, she says that Wellington is much more expensive place to live compared to her home city.
“Not only is the rent expensive but even the cost of living and basic needs like food is really expensive.”
Samuels says due to expensive rent she has had to drastically change both her diet and life style choices.
Graduate Diploma of Arts student, Kat Fankhauser-Taylor, agrees with Samuels. Fankhauser-Taylor pays roughly $3000 a semester for her flat.
Fankhauser-Taylor says accommodation in Wellington is hard to come by.
“I think some of them [other students] struggle to find a good place to live in, so they are forced to live in horrible places that are cold and rundown,” she says.
Fankhauser-Taylor says good living situations are beneficial as they mean you can concentrate on study, without worrying about other things.
She says luckily her current living situation makes her financial capability less stressful.
Fankhauser-Taylor uses a snapper card to catch the bus which is topped up with $20 that normally can last her a week and a half.
This is expensive considering Auckland has discounted bus fares and the Manawatu Campuses have free bus fares for students with valid ID.