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As Studylink continues to place restrictions on student allowance eligibility, the number of students contesting allowance applications has dramatically decreased.
Review applications have dropped from 788 in 2011 to 300 in 2015, indicating a decline in student’s faith in Studylink as a provider of financial support. The number of students receiving the allowance has decreased since 2011 from 99,271 to 75,050.
Studylink’s application process has long been criticised by students for being too complicated. Third-year student Emerson Radisich did not apply because he was required to prove he was independent from his father. “I needed to prove independence from my dad and I didn’t want to get in contact with him so I didn’t bother.”
Parents are required to sign a form to prove their child does not received any financial support from them. Third-year English major Helena Crengle said, “I don’t even know where to find him [my father] so I didn’t bother applying.”
Judging the allowance on parental income also fails to account for the fact only 15% of students receive financial support from their parents.
Less students receiving the student allowance is driving up debt as students instead use loan living costs to cover their expenses.
Whilst issues remain for those applying from a single-parent family, VUWSA President Jonathan Gee believes that through combined efforts of NZUSA and Studylink, the process is getting easier.
“There have been some improvements, but it’s always a bit of a nightmare trying to get all the paperwork in by the December deadline,” he said.
Third-year Psychology student Hana Thomson found the process relatively easy. She was applying because her family have a farm and earn under the income threshold.
“All I did was apply online and the accountant did the proof of income stuff so I didn’t need to.” She said the longest part was “waiting for Victoria to approve my study.”
However, Hana finds that the allowance is not enough to cover the expenses of living in Wellington. “It does help but I still need to work even though I get allowance—the allowance doesn’t cover my spending money like food and bills.”
One student who did not wish to be named, but can chomp ten plus cones a night, argued for a universal allowance.
“I pay my taxes,” they simply said. Hear hear.