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CPAG launches new report on student poverty

The case of student hardship in New Zealand has long fallen under the political and media radar, and has been swallowed up in the discourse on student loan debt.

This week Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomes the launch of its latest report: Laybying our future: The state of student hardship in New Zealand.  

The report, written by Master’s student Max Lin, looks at the challenges of very low levels of financial  support and – ever-rising associated costs – upon students today, and aims to dispel some ‘myths’ about being a tertiary student.

“The seriousness and urgency of student hardship demands a greater focus in the political agenda,” says author Max Lin.

While CPAG is largely focussed on children under 18 living below the poverty line, childhood poverty can have an negative effect on those who strive to obtain higher qualifications. Policy that tightens and restricts financial support for students makes it even more unlikely that children from low-income backgrounds will access the tertiary education they need to maximise their potential. Furthermore, some tertiary students are also parents of young children, whose Working for Families (WFF) eligibility is compromised because studying is not recognised as ‘work’.

Max has participated on the Ministry of Social Development's Student Allowance Review Board, and seen first-hand the unfair nature of the student allowance and loan scheme.

“There will be students in hardship who come in with absolutely no parental support, but because their parents' income is ‘too high’, they are unable receive additional support. These decisions are not the fault of the frontline workers at Studylink who are already under-resourced when dealing with students, but arise  because the system is simply broken,” he says.

“The issue is not budgeting. Students are forced to be excellent budgeters - there is simply not enough to budget. This leaves no room for students to socialise, which can have a detrimental effect on mental health, as well as denying them a fundamental part of the university experience and the ability to form networks that support them during and after their study.”

Max, who formerly sat on the Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) Hardship Grants committee, says that, “demand for food parcels has increased dramatically, especially for students with children. At times we had to give out blankets and clothing and even try and find emergency accommodation.”

“Students need adequate support that is both reliable and sufficient in order to complete their degrees, and complete them well.”

The launch of Laybying our future: The state of student hardship in New Zealand will take place at 5pm on August 3, at the Auckland University School of Business Studies, and will feature a panel of guest speakers including MPs, students and student body executives. For more information, or to register to attend the event please visit the CPAG website.

The report is available for download here.