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May 28, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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VUWSA Presidential Address

After several weeks nervously waiting, last Thursday the Government announced their 2012 Budget. While many of the incoming changes were expected and in line with previous comments made by the Tertiary Education Minister, some of the changes were more drastic than what we expected. In particular, the limit on Student Allowances.

Steven Joyce had announced earlier that student allowances would be capped at around 4 years or 200 weeks. However,
as has been revealed in the Budget, this limit is far more drastic than we had originally believed. With the exception of Honours degrees, student allowances will no longer be available for postgraduate study. So those students studying Post- Grad Diplomas, Masters or PhDs, even if they have not used up their 200 hours, will no longer be able to receive the student allowance.

This change will present major issues around accessibility of postgraduate study in New Zealand. Now, unless you are lucky enough to have a family that are able to support you through your study or work a considerable number of hours each week, students wishing to enter into postgraduate study will have to take our living costs, through the student loan scheme (and that is only if they are eligible!).

I do understand that there are a significant amount of students who are already in this position or who may need to work to top up their amount of living costs. However, I believe we truly have to question why all students should have to accrue an unreasonable amount of debt, just to put food on their table and roofs over their heads. Student Debt is already over $12 billion–do we really want this level to continue to climb?

Over the last few weeks we have argued that these proposed changes will make it harder for students to live and study in Aoteroa, New Zealand. The above changes will do nothing to stop the exodus to Australia and further overseas, but may drive more, in particular postgraduate students, off our shores.

Every week we watch a thousand kiwis leave New Zealand for a brighter future in Australia, it is my fear that this budget will only see an increase in the amount of new graduates that join those other kiwis in the jump across the ditch. With the higher wages and increased job opportunities in Australia, it’s no wonder graduates are moving from Wellington to Wollongong (thanks for the line by the way Rory!)

On Wednesday next week VUWSA will be hosting a post-budget Student Representative Council meeting. We are planning to invite several political parties along to the event and have a general debrief about the Budget and what it means for students. This meeting will also be a forum for students to provide personal feedback about what they think about the budget and what it means for them. If the changes outlined in the Budget are something you would like to hear and talk more about it, I would encourage you to come along. If you are interested, keep an eye on the VUWSA facebook (facebook. com/vuwsa) for further details.

However, on a far more happier note – it’s Week 11! All the best with finishing those assignments and starting to prepare for exams. As always, if you have any questions or concerns feel free to get in contact with me at president@vuwsa.org.nz.

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