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Universities: Get off our campuses!
NZUSA and Grey Power are blaming Government policies for the falling number of students over 55 enrolling in university.
The number of students over 55 years old has dropped by 43 per cent between 2008 and 2014, from 33,000 in 2008 to fewer than 19,000 in 2014.
Both Grey Power and NZUSA claim that the falling numbers are due to restrictions on student loans, student allowance and community education centres.
In 2013, the Government changed the eligibility for student loans and allowance for older students. These changes prevented those over 55 from obtaining a loan to study, and cut student allowances to those over 40 years old.
NZUSA President Rory McCourt has called on the Government to make education accessible for all ages and to reverse its changes to financial assistance.
“Governments of any colour have to realise that we need to support lifelong learning,” McCourt says. “Older Kiwis need to know that there will be assistance to retrain and upskill if they lose their job or their industry changes. Age discrimination is bad for the economy.”
However, Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce denied that changes to financial assistance eligibility were to blame for the drop in numbers of older students. Instead, Joyce claimed that the drop was due to an increase in those over 55 being employed and the discontinuation of low-level courses.
“A whole level of short, low-level courses have been kicked out of the system, in a process that was started by Labour and continued by National, and we’ve stopped immigrants from being in a position where they can enrol in courses and take up a student loan for living expenses,” Joyce said.
Victoria has worked to maintain its support systems for mature students, despite the dwindling numbers. Specific initiatives for mature students include mature students’ orientation, flexible student learning support for those still working full-time, apartment living options in University accommodation, and the University’s crèche for students who are parents.