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May 28, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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VUWSA Vice-President (Welfare)

Student unions, by and large, do not operate on faith. We’re cynical beasts, weary of every snake oil salesman that supposes he has the solution for students and our bible-thick list of woes. We’re cynical for a reason. Students have been screwed by political parties of all stripes more times than Mary Magdalene. Labour introduced fwees in the ‘80s. National introduced student loans in the ‘90s.

And so when John Key assured us that his National-led Government would shelter the most vulnerable from the brunt of the recession, we reserved judgement like a jaded lover. But Thursday’s Budget signals some of the harshest changes to student support in 20 years. The Government made it clear it has no intention of stopping the haemorrhage of Aotearoa’s best and brightest across the Tasman where comparable fees, higher wages and lower living costs are alluring our mates. Cutting postgrad student allowances will drive us even quicker overseas. When coupled with a cast-iron cap of 200 weeks of undergrad allowance access and a 20 per cent hike in the student repayment rate; students and graduates will be ditching Wellington for Wollongong en masse. Over 90 per cent of students borrow for their fees and will be worse off upon graduation.

It doesn’t matter what your politics are, these changes will take money out of your pocket. As an independent voice
for students, VUWSA has been running a campaign alongside other groups to highlight how these cuts will hurt those
the Government ought to be encouraging to study, work and innovate in New Zealand. We’ve run a poster campaign, supported a peaceful march to Parliament and communicated students’ stories to the media. We’ve been active, but we haven’t been activist. VUWSA’s preference is clear: we need a universal student allowance, higher repayment thresholds and lower fees to keep our talent in New Zealand and out of poverty.

Instead, this Budget saddles more students with more debt. We’re heading backwards. Once more students are being screwed, but at least you can have faith that Your Students’ Association is standing up for you and your future. Someone has to.

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