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March 23, 2009 | by  | in News |
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The Money or the Bag

Students forced to choose work over education

With the current job climate looking similar to a prune in the sun, there is little question as to why the New Zealand Union of Students’ Association (NZUSA) is calling on the Government for a universal student allowance. Co-President Sophia Blair represented student leaders throughout the country last Monday in a press release asserting major concern over the ability of students to financially support themselves while they further their education.

Catalysed by the recession, New Zealand’s tight job market is having enormous effects on students who can no longer afford to live and who may turn to the unemployment benefit for survival as employers willingly eliminate “student-friendly” jobs.

Fresh statistics released from Student Job Search (SJS) confirm job vacancies have decreased by 20 percent since last year, paralleling the general employment market in this uncertain economic climate. On the opposing end of the scale, VicCareers has seen a 10 percent increase in vacancies and assert that the current job climate can still offer decent part-time employment for students.

“Certainly all is not rosy at the moment,” says Liz Medford, Manager of Career Development and Employment at VicCareers, “but it is important to remember that there are jobs still out there.”

Although there are over 1300 vacancies nationwide on SJS, this significant decrease in available jobs has manifested fear in the many students who rely on part-time work to supplement their income. It is the reason why a Universal Student Allowance is the long-term goal of NZUSA—and to make this happen they will initiate requests during 2009 for a decrease in the Parental Means Threshold and an increase in the amount of money Student Allowance recipients can obtain.

At present, less than a third of students are eligible to receive the student allowance while the rest are forced to borrow $155 weekly from the Student Loan Scheme, covering the remainder of their basic living costs with income from part time jobs. If there are no jobs however, these students will be forced to bypass their studies and turn to the unemployment benefit for survival.

The lack of financial support for students is creating a major barrier in the up-skilling of New Zealanders for the future, and while VicCareers’ manager Liz Medford and NZUSA co-president Sophia Blair agree that the current recession brings a fantastic opportunity to opt into tertiary education, it is up to the Government to respond by investing into people who wish to further their studies.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education reveal that those who receive a Student Allowance do academically better than those who do not, so as people tighten their belts everywhere, the Government may need to consider loosening theirs.

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