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May 22, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Survey Confirms that Students are Overworked and Underfunded

Tertiary students are “regularly going without food or other necessities” because they cannot afford them, according to a survey of 2000 students at Unitec in Auckland.

Unitec is New Zealand’s biggest campus-based polytechnic, with 9100 full time equivalent students. Half of the students surveyed, including two-thirds of Māori students surveyed, said their income was not enough to cover their living costs at some stage in the past year.

Unitec is asking its staff for donations of food and linen to aid students in need.

VUWSA President Rory Lenihan-Ikin told Salient that VUWSA had seen a steady increase in student hardship, with more and more people accessing their student support services.

“Unfortunately this is not a surprise, considering a lack of adequate government student support forces most students to live in poverty for the duration of their studies, and it’s only going to get worse if they don’t review the Student Living Cost and Allowance soon.”

All VUW students have access to the VUWSA community pantry, which provides a free food hamper for students.

“At the end of 2016, 649 food parcels had been given out to students, but the 152 applications which have already been processed this year indicate we will be giving out much more than that in 2017.”

Jonathan Gee, President of the New Zealand University Students Association (NZUSA), said that the necessity of part-time work alongside study made it difficult for students to cope. “There’s a tipping point there in terms of how your part-time work affects your academic performance.”

Gee explained that insufficient student allowances created “a question of access.”

“A third of students seriously consider dropping out, mainly due to financial pressures. […]  Tertiary education should be a way out of poverty, but so many students are going into poverty in order to get through that tertiary education, and some of them don’t even make it out on the other end.”

NZUSA are calling on the government to increase the amount of, and access to, student allowances in the upcoming Budget announcement. Only 30% of tertiary students are currently receiving an allowance, which works out at $177.03 after tax per week for students under 24 living away from home, if their parents are earning less than $91,000 per year.

When asked by Radio New Zealand, “do you think it’s fair to ask taxpayers to pay more for students?” Gee responded, “A couple of years ago, we were talking about students living on two minute noodles. What you see in this survey is that one in seven students can’t even afford those two minute noodles. I think when you see that a demographic of society are failing to meet their basic necessities of life, there’s definitely a concern there.”

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