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August 19, 2013 | by  | in News |
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The Weakest Link

Recent figures suggest the StudyLink is broken, with over 800,000 calls unanswered over the last three years and students being left in the lurch in the meantime.

24 per cent of calls—roughly 270,000 a year—are not connected to an operator, recent figures show. The longest waiting time at the loan service was over an hour, something Labour has blamed on the 14-per-cent reduction in StudyLink staff overseen by the National Government.

Unanswered calls peak at the beginning of the university year, when StudyLink processed over 310,000 applications. Last summer, the rate of unanswered calls rose to 41 per cent; a 25-per-cent improvement on 2012’s rate.

Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern has said accessibility to StudyLink is “vital” for students, after having heard stories of students who are struggling to pay bills or rent while waiting for loan issues to be resolved.

“Not getting correct payments on time can mean the difference between being able to afford groceries or having to collect a food parcel.

“I have heard numerous stories where undue financial hardship has forced students to add to their debt by sourcing loans from elsewhere. And universities are reporting increased demand for their welfare services,” said Ardern.

National’s youth wing, the Young Nats, launched a campaign in April seeking feedback from students on problems with StudyLink. The results of the consultation will be presented to Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce and Associate Minister for Social Development Chester Borrows. Students can submit to the Young Nats’ StudyLink consultation at studylinkideas.org.nz.

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