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Low income students ‘locked out’ of tertiary education as costs rise

Child Poverty Action Group says the increasing costs facing all students are effectively locking poor students out of tertiary education.

A new Incomes and Expenditure Survey, released yesterday by the New Zealand Union of Students Associations, shows all students are facing rising debt, falling support and unaffordable living expenses as housing costs rise.

CPAG spokesperson Associate Professor Susan St John says, "It is now far too hard for low income students. Travel costs, course costs, high rents and the lack of allowances are crippling for many, and the barrier is even higher for those whose families cannot provide financial support."

There is an expectation that parents will support their children’s living costs while they study but for many low income families this is simply unaffordable, says CPAG.

Susan St John says, "We are in danger of locking low income families out of education completely, which can only increase inequity and reduce social mobility."

St John is particularly concerned with the financial pressure and mental distress many student sole parents are under, especially in post graduate courses. "Their financial support is completely inadequate. I am seeing mothers trying to study being hassled by Work and Income over doing paid work, to the detriment of their health. Several promising students have become sick and had to drop out. How many others just don’t make it past the first hurdle?"

One of the best investments in the future for her family a young mother can make is in furthering her own education. Sole parents in the past have been assisted financially through the training incentive allowance and such support should be restored.

CPAG supports the report’s recommendations which would improve equity of access to education.