NZUSA President, James Ranstead,takes a look at Budget 2019 and its impact on students.

After significant talk and hype about wellbeing, this Government has certainly delivered on their mental health promises. After NZUSA’s 2018 research on student mental health, ‘Keite pai?’was published, and students soon after marched on Parliament, we knew the extent of the problem, and we wanted change. An additional $1.9 billion dollars towards mental health will go a long way towards widening the focus to those showing mild to moderate symptoms, which we know increasingly develop within tertiary students, and more commonly than the average population.

The massive focus placed on child poverty is also welcome news. NZUSA’s mission is to fight for a barrier free education, and we are well aware that many barriers not just to education but also many facets of life, develop within a child's formative years. The additional focus on Māori and Pasifika learners, too, will go a long way towards diversifying teaching methods, and ensuring these groups can learn in their own way, ultimately increasing learner success.

Unfortunately NZUSA has been dismayed to learn that neither the Postgraduate Student Allowance has been restored, nor has the age discrimination on student loans and allowances been removed. This Government has consistently spoken about the importance of life long learning, supporting mature students to keep up with the rapidly changing workforce, and additional specialisation (i.e. Postgraduate) to ensure New Zealands niche economy continues to flourish.

Postgraduate students either have to work alongside their studies, or take on greater amounts of student debt. We know that financial and time pressures experienced by tertiary students play a key role in diminishing wellbeing, and that greater levels of student debt severely limits any chance of buying a house later on in life. With the cost of housing one of the main concerns for young people, restoring the Postgraduate Student Allowance seems like a no brainer to us.

New Zealand has an aging workforce, many of which are looking to other avenues to up skill; to support their families and whānau, to stay relevant in todays automatic world, and to ensure they are able to continue working well into their 60s – often out of necessity. A student 40 years and older is not able to receive a student allowance for greater than 3 years, nor is a student 55 years and older eligible for any form of student allowance. With the average age of our Polytechnic students reaching into their late 20’s and sometimes early 30s, these penalties based on age need to be removed.

Every student deserves the right to education at ALL levels and ages, particularly when we are seeing more and more of our students studying postgraduate qualifications and returning to education later in life.