Steven Joyce should do the right thing and extend student allowances to all postgraduate students who are part way through their qualifications, says the Labour Party’s tertiary education spokesperson Grant Robertson.
TV3 reported this week that the changes, which came into effect on January 1, mean students undertaking higher-level study, for example, masters or doctoral degrees are no longer eligible for the student allowance.
TV3 estimates about 5000 students across the country will be affected by the tightening of the eligibility criteria, which the minister announced in last year’s budget.
Without access to the allowance, postgraduate students will need to find some other way of supporting themselves, either by adding to their student loan, finding part-time work, or deferring study until they can afford it.
“The increased price effectively for doing a postgraduate degree means that for a lot of students, they’re going to defer it,” Victoria University Students’ Association president Rory McCourt told TV3.
Grant Robertson said if Steven Joyce is determined to go ahead with the cuts, he needs to urgently act to allow those students part way through their postgraduate study to get allowances.
“Students who enrolled in 2012, for example in a two-year Masters programme, did so with the expectation that they would have allowances available to them for the duration of their study. Many will have made financial commitments on that basis. It is simply unfair and against natural justice to not allow them to continue to receive the allowance for the final year of their study.
However, the minister Steven Joyce says government expenditure on student allowances has increased significantly in recent years, to the point where it is simply not sustainable.