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March 3, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Putting the ‘Low’ in ‘Allowance’

There is a growing disparity between the amount which tertiary students are able to borrow from the government from week to week, and the price of living, particularly in Wellington and Auckland.

Since 1999, the quota has risen by $23 to the current amount of $173.56; a sum that Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce says is in line with the rise in inflation, but critics say is insufficient for students to live on.

VUWSA President Sonya Clark disputes the Minister’s claim that student loan sums have risen in line with inflation, calling Mr Joyce “out of touch” and saying that there existed a “desperate” need for loan amounts and course-related costs to increase.

“If the Minister truly believes that it’s enough to live on, then I would challenge him to do so. I think he’d quickly find that it’s not even enough to cover the cost of a roof over his head.”

“If he really wants to modernise our economy, then he needs to be ensuring the students are adequately supported to succeed.”

Clark said that if students who depend on borrowing living costs do not have access to a sufficient amount, they tend to work “considerably” more hours that is recommended for someone in full-time study.

“This has a huge impact on their studies and seriously impacts the mental health of our country’s best brains,” said Clark.

Third-year Victoria University student Lauren Bell agrees that the weekly loan allotment is simply not enough. Even borrowing the maximum amount each week, she is left with a mere $10 after rent to pay all her other costs.

Only with the support of her parents can Bell afford to study full-time without a job, a solution that she acknowledges is not available to many students.

Despite this, Mr Joyce has emphasised that this year’s Budget will not be providing any more money to students, saying that the loan system in place is already “one of the most generous support systems in the world”.

Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesman Grant Robertson said the entire loan and allowance system needed to be reviewed. However, Mr Joyce said these were “tough times for everybody” and he very much doubted that students were any worse off than in previous years.

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