The national students’ union, NZUSA, says approximately one in six university students suffers from “absolute financial distress“. That is a key finding from the Baseline Report of the Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand (GLSNZ) released this month.
The GLSNZ which surveyed 9,000 university students in their final year between July and December 2011 asked students about their financial situation and coded the results according to the internationally respected “Economic Strain Model”. It found that as many as 1 in 6 students reported that they did not have enough money for their basic accommodation, clothing and food requirements.
The study, which has been commissioned by Universities New Zealand – Te Pokai Tara, will follow these graduates over the next ten years, principally to inform policy makers interested in the contribution tertiary education makes to the national good. The National Centre for Lifecourse Research – a multi-university group headquartered at the University of Otago is carrying out the study.
Arena Williams, NZUSA vice-president, believes the findings show we need to lift allowances rates and expand eligibility of allowances to those who are currently ineligible due to their parents’ income – but whose parents cannot actually support them.
One-third of full-time, full year, New Zealand students currently access allowances. The maximum entitlement per week for a student (aged under 24, without children, and living away from home) is $170.80. Those ineligible, or who get a partial allowance, can borrow through the Student Loans Scheme up to $172.51 per week.
“$170 a week isn’t a living allowance. You did well in the summer rental rush if that covers your rent in a damp student flat. Even when students are really struggling, their parents aren’t in a position to support them. The assumption that all students under 24 have parental support is ludicrous”, said Ms Williams.