A more than 20% drop in the number of Dunedin students
receiving the student allowance shows Government changes to
entitlements are beginning to bite, opponents of the changes
Figures released under the Official Information Act by the
Ministry of Social Development (MSD) showed the number of
students on the allowance with Dunedin addresses dropped
23.8% from 6327 in 2012 to 4822 last year.
In New Zealand, numbers on the allowance decreased from
96,908 in 2012 to 85,094 last year, with the figure expected
to drop to 82,070 this year.
Labour's tertiary education spokesman, Grant Robertson, said
the figures showed Government changes to allowance
entitlements - which included keeping the parental threshold
down and abolishing the allowance for post-graduate students
- were beginning to bite.
The changes were affecting people who most needed the
support, he said.
''It just makes it much, much harder for those people from
low-income backgrounds to get access to tertiary education.
''Our view is that we should create the opportunities for
people to be able to study further, not put up barriers in
The reduction in student income would also affect Dunedin's
economy, he said.
''Any loss in student income like that will have a big impact
on Dunedin and that's obviously something for the city to be
concerned about as well.''
Otago University Students' Association president Ruby
Sycamore-Smith said the figures suggested people could be
opting out of tertiary education.
The OUSA would be pushing for more student support in the
lead-up to this year's general election.
''The OUSA is in favour of universal student allowances and
will be strongly advocating this to all parties in the
lead-up to the 2014 election.''
Otago Polytechnic Students' Association (OPSA) president
Rebecca Swindells said the figures were concerning.
''OPSA is concerned that some students may be living off less
money than is healthy, and notes last year's Massey study
that found a third of students have had to change their diet
because of financial hardship.
''It is also a concern for the city. Obviously if there are
fewer students, or students have less money to spend on their
living costs, this will have negative impacts on the Dunedin
economy,'' Ms Swindells said.
Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce said the figures
did not show post-graduate students were putting off studying
because they no longer had access to the allowance.
''We have been monitoring enrolments ... and they haven't
changed,'' Mr Joyce said.
He also pointed out the student allowance and loans were
inflation-adjusted, meaning students were no worse off in
terms of the amount they received than when Labour left