By Taryn Dryfhout
United Future has announced its plans to do away with student allowances, if it is part of the next government.
The eradication of student allowances is a consequence of the party’s broader plan to overhaul tertiary education.
Cutting off access to student allowances will provide the funding needed to offer tuition-free education to students, and will be phased in over a number of years.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) President Jonathan Gee is warning that any plan to abolish Student Allowances would deepen inequality.
“We welcome policies which aim to improve access to tertiary education for all, such as the removal of tuition fees, but taking away living allowances from low-income New Zealanders is not the answer,’” he says.
Under the proposed policy, students will still have access to student loan living costs.
Gee says while students immediate concern is having enough to live on, their long-term concern is graduating with less debt.
“We also know that many low-income families are extremely averse to debt. An indebted future is unlikely to encourage some of our poorest families into tertiary study,” he says.
“Free tertiary education and a living allowance for low-income New Zealanders who are studying should not be a trade-off.”
Albany Students’ Association (ASA) President Lance Walsh agrees that it may not be the answer.
“My judgement really depends on how much the living cost allowance will increase by.
“I agree with Johnathan in that it would deepen inequality. However, I do believe in an increase in the living cost allowance. I don’t think removing student allowance and putting it elsewhere would achieve much,” says Walsh.