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April 3, 2006 | by  | in News |
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Smith backtracks on student allowance rules About a decade too late

The New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) have called on National MP Lockwood Smith to attempt to change student allowance policy, following his comments to the Sunday Star-Times last week.

Comments published in the Sunday Star-Times last week revealed that Smith, Minister of Education when the student loan scheme was introduced in 1992, was “troubled the most” by allowances being distributed according to parental incomes for students under twenty-five.

Stressing that this was not National Party policy, Smith told the Sunday Star-Times he would have preferred a universal student allowance scheme, or, at the very least, one that “hit wage and salary earning families less hard.”

Students under twenty-five can receive an allowance only if their parents earn under $64,000 annually. Around a third of students have access to full or partial student allowances, with the numbers of students eligible to receive allowances having dropped by thirty-two percent over the last four years.

NZUSA have called on Smith to rectify the situation with a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament. Co-President Joey Randall says “it’s all very well to have second thoughts, but then not to do anything about it seems to be all care and no responsibility.”

Randall added that NZUSA were “hopeful that [National MPs] will listen to Lockwood’s comments” and were planning to raise the issue when meeting MPs this week.

Smith was “not available” for interview last week.

The current Minister for Tertiary Education Michael Cullen, attending a Vic Labour celebration in the Quad last week asked “what am I supposed to do, grant him absolution or something?”

He added that the wiping of interest on student loans had “taken pretty much everything that was available for student support in this year’s budget” but he hoped to make limited changes to student allowance eligibility in next year’s budget.

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About the Author ()

Nicola Kean: feature writer, philanthropist, womanly woman. Nicola is the smallest member of the Salient team, but eats really large pieces of lasagne. Favourites include 80s music, the scent of fresh pine needles and long walks on the beach.

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