The report by student Max Lin for the Child Poverty Action Group found student allowances dropped from 95,945 in 2010 to 75,051 last year, of the country’s 210,000 domestic, full-time tertiary students.
It recommends lifting parental income limits to extend allowances to more students, even if that has to be funded by bringing back interest on student loans.
It says many students are living in overcrowded flats and in financial hardship because the income limits for allowances and other support have been frozen despite rising rents, textbook prices and other living costs.
One student says in the report: “I have had to share a tiny room with a roommate … to bring down rental costs. We would alternate between sleeping on the bed and the floor.”
And former engineering student Michael Lai, 26, told the Herald that in 2012 he lived in the living room of a tiny, two-bedroom central Auckland apartment with five others paying $155 a week in rent each, because he didn’t qualify for a student allowance and his separated parents could not support him.
He had $20 a week for food.
“It was $2.50 for a kilo of frozen vegetables, 95c for half a kilo of pasta, that lasts you like two days,” he said. “It’s hard, but … you just try to last as long until the next summer work comes along.”
Student allowances were axed for postgraduate students in 2012; the lifetime limit for allowances was cut from 200 weeks to 120 weeks for students over 40 in 2014; and the parental limit for the full student allowance has been frozen at a pre-tax combined income of $55,028.
Recipients of student allowances fell from 43.1 per cent of full-time domestic students in 2010 to 35.7 per cent last year.
Students who don’t qualify can still get loans, but a growing share of full-time domestic students, up from 26.9 per cent to 31.4 per cent, are not getting any state help with living costs and must be supported by their parents and/or their own part-time work.
National student union president Linsey Higgins said the last survey in 2014 found that 63 per cent of students worked during term time for an average of 14 hours a week.
“Because they have this pressure to work and study and manage their commitments, there is a big increase in anxiety and we are seeing a massive increase in pressure on counselling services,” she said.
The maximum allowance for single students under 24, living away from home, is $175.10 a week plus up to $40 for accommodation.
Yet the 2014 survey found students in Auckland were paying an average of $218 a week just for rent.
Source: The New Zealand Herald