Ākonga/Learners are some of our most vulnerable members of society and more must be done to support them at this extraordinary time says Te Hautū Kahurangi | The tertiary Education Union.

The government as part of its COVID-19 response today announced a domestic tertiary student package.

For Joshua James, U35 representative on the TEU National Council, the measures do not go far enough, and the government should look at making the student allowance universal to all students, at an increased rate.

Students are facing financial hardship because they can’t supplement their allowances or loans with part time work. Like all New Zealanders they are often taking on more family and community responsibilities. And on top of this they are trying to adjust to changes in the mode of delivery of courses says James.

“This is why it is important for more to be done to support students and ensure that those in training don’t end up dropping out for economic reasons and adding to what will already be an increasing unemployment line.”

James notes that "many of our members at the TEU who are under 35 years old are also students, and they need far more support than just the increased ability to get more debt."

"Students currently owe more than $16billion in student loans, and with job prospects shrinking in the post-COVID economy, burdening students with more debt will further undermine their long-term futures."

TEU National President Michael Gilchrist says TEU members are pleased to see the government adjusting rules to ensure that students who can’t complete study because of COVID-19 won’t be penalised when it comes to the entitlement to student loans or Fees Free tertiary study.

“But the decision to continue support payments for students unable to study on-line for only 8 weeks is not enough, neither is it enough to have students borrowing another $1,000 for course related costs on a temporary basis. It is important to remember too that for apprentices and others doing on-job training the effects will be even more severe and longer lasting than for university students

The TEU urges the Minister of Education to keep working closely with students and staff in the tertiary education to keep them engaged and develop a deeper response.

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, noted in her Press Conference today (April 14) “education will be key to our economic recovery”.  This recovery must start now making it easier for people to get into and stay in study.