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The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has elected its new president for the 2016 school year, Linsey Higgins. Higgins—originally from Opunake, Taranaki—studied at Massey University in Palmerston North and replaces Rory McCourt as the head of the association.
This appointment follows her two-term presidency as the head of Massey University Students’ Association (MUSA). When asked whether she saw herself staying in the role for more than one term, Higgins told Salient she would need to re-assess the question in a few months. Former presidents Rory McCourt and Daniel Haines both served single presidential terms.
Higgins’ said one of her main goals as president is to tackle the exorbitant amount of tertiary debt. While the number of registered tertiary students is falling, debt is rising, having hit $15 billion in February 2016. Higgins told Salient it’s not okay that students are the only group in society forced to borrow government money to live and study, something she’s hoping to highlight with NZUSA’s upcoming ‘$15 billion debt day’ on March 2nd.
Higgins’ other goals for the year include lobbying for bike racks on the front of buses, easier access to accommodation, and to facilitate better communication between students’ associations across the country.
Higgins has been elected following a strenuous year for former president Rory McCourt. McCourt faced backlash against NZUSA’s required membership fees and presided over Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) and VUWSA opting to withdraw from NZUSA. They claimed NZUSA was overpriced for the services the membership offered.
NZUSA maintained its relevance as the national voice and platform for universities across the country, stressing that without them the student voice would be fragmented and less effective at dealing with the government.
NZUSA was formed in 1929 and has represented students’ associations ever since. Since finishing his term, McCourt has jumped the ditch to Melbourne to work for the Trade Union of Australia.