Student feels 'duped' by Govt

University of Otago postgraduate student Veronica Harwood-Stevenson (28) says it is unfair her student allowance was taken away partway through her diploma. Photo by Craig Baxter.
University of Otago postgraduate student Veronica Harwood-Stevenson (28) says it is unfair her student allowance was taken away partway through her diploma. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A University of Otago student says she feels ''duped'' after a Government change meant her student allowance was taken away halfway through her postgraduate study.

Veronica Harwood-Stevenson (28), who is taking the two-year postgraduate diploma in natural history, film-making and communication, said she would probably have chosen to stay in her job in the film industry in Wellington if she had known her allowance would be stopped this year.

This comes as changes to student allowance eligibility announced by the Government in last year's Budget come into force this year. The changes mean postgraduate students can no longer receive the allowance and there is no option to apply for exemptions allowing them to receive it beyond the 200-week cut-off rule.

Ms Harwood-Stevenson felt people such as her who signed up for study before the changes were made should still be able to get the allowance.

''I made the decision to return to study based on the status quo at the time and then it was changed from under my feet.''

The change left her feeling ''duped'' by the Government and meant she would be left with an extra $10,000 on her student loan.

She also faced having to get by on $175 a week instead of the $244 she was getting last year.

''That might not seem like a lot to ... [Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce]; he would probably drop that on a bottle of wine, but that is the majority of someone's rent.''

As a result, she had given up on a plan to use her savings to buy a house and was instead living with her mother. Even on $244 a week, she had been forced to put off doctor visits so she could buy course materials.

Ms Harwood-Stevenson said that to be fair, Mr Joyce should change his mind and give back the allowance to people partway through postgraduate study.

Labour tertiary education spokesman Grant Robertson also called on Mr Joyce to ''do the right thing'' for people in Ms Harwood-Stevenson's situation.

''If Steven Joyce is determined to go ahead with [allowance changes] ... he needs to urgently act to allow those students partway through their postgraduate study to get allowances.''

When asked if he would consider making the change, Mr Joyce said postgraduate students earned more when they finished studying and it was ''hardly fair'' to ask taxpayers to keep ''picking up ... the tab'' for their allowances.

''The Labour Party are starting 2013 where they left off in 2012 - trying to have their cake and eat it too. They pretend they would be as fiscally responsible as the Government, but then oppose every single spending change the Government makes,'' Mr Joyce said.

Otago University Students' Association president Francisco Hernandez called on the Government to reverse all the changes it had made to student allowances.

''Student associations have told the Government the whole time that situations like Veronica's would come up.

''Although students can access the living cost scheme, many students are finding that they are unable to borrow the same amount as they were receiving via the student allowance scheme,'' he said.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

Value

Education in this country is not valued highly enough by the current government.  It has been demonstrated by their actions, and by some of the commentary in this thread.

Education, and especially tertiary education should be regarded as an asset to this country, not a burden to be shouldered.

The irony is that these moves by the Government are in direct contradiction with their stated to desire to increase the number of people doing postgraduate studies.

Not the best example alas

It's rather hard to sympathise with an individual who has had to defer the purchase of a house because of a reduction in her allowance/benefit. [abridged]

Students not immune

Everyone is affected by the government spending cuts in some way. This country has to live within its means and students have to take a hit too. It's not the only industry getting reduced funding - police have a freeze on funding, defence staff have been laid off, the list goes on...

 

Postgrad study full-time job

It's great if you are able to get through university by working and saving instead of using loans and allowances. Postgraduate study is, however, a full-time job. Many students contribute unpaid or paid work to the university whilst undertaking their Masters and PhD work. This can involve teaching, tutoring, contributing to research, publishing research, contributing to books, attending conferences and so on. Being a postgraduate is not like undergrad where you can attend a few hours of classes a week. It is a full-time commitment to the academic community. On top of that are the PG students with ongoing medical conditions (like myself) or with children and families to look after, volunteer work, school commitments etc.

Students are the only group in society expected to borrow money for living costs. At a minimum, student allowances should match the amount people receive on the unemployment benefit where the government pays people to "look for work". We are studying for work but we are expected to shut up and put up?

Cut us some slack! We are working hard and looking forward to getting back into the workforce to contribute to society. We want something reinstated that countless others were entitled to before us! 

Personal choice

Having engaged in real work for a couple of years I decided to give University a nudge (walked out with a double degree three years later and a pretty decent grade average), and almost immediately it became apparent that attendance at University leaves a great deal of spare time for other pursuits, so I decided to avoid the student allowance/loan system completely and worked 20-30 hours a week instead. Summers were spent working my butt off saving enough to pay for the following year's fees (while friends chose instead to utilise their student loan monies for European holidays, which they are still paying off today).

What is it with society today that we see handouts from others as our god-given right, we've all got choices in this world, it's time people started fronting up and being accountable for their own lives/actions.

Paying...

The point is you do pay for my student loan even if you don't have it. My brother is a lawyer and every time a client sits in his chair, he makes sure that client pays all his costs and one of those costs is his student loan. Teachers have got pay rises based on the fact they have some of the highest student loans due to their four year degrees (for secondary teaching) and earn less than the average professional. How you pay may have changed, but you're still paying and you're actually paying a lot more!

But what have you done for me lately?

Te Jackle effectively asks "But what have you done for me lately?"

There's three obvious answers to that:
The computer that Te Jackle used to make their comment, the science that means it doesn't require a second house to accomodate, and the internet which allows them to make their views known.

Then there is the secondary education that Te Jackle has apparently taken for granted. The list goes on from there...

Ethics

If you have sufficient resouces why shouldn't you use them to pay for your education. We are struggling to put our daughter through university without allowances and she has worked 40 plus hours every week since November for the privilege of getting a degree. This comes down to ethics.

What you get . . .

. . . is access to doctors. For just one other example look at what the student loan scheme has done to the cost of dentistry.

A better question would be what's changed between the 1970s and now that we no longer value education as a society? 

Lifestyle choice

It's your choice to attend uni rather than go straight into the work force - I don't get an allowance to attend work every day so why should my taxes be used to prop up those that choose this option?

When and if you ever graduate, your qualification should garner a greater income than most so there is your reward, what do I get from it?

Student allowance

I am in the same situation as Veronica, and I have been told specifically by Studylink that I am still eligible because my study was started before the change. The problem I am facing is with the way the university processes enrolments. Note the studylink website.

Last bullet point:

Situations where you can't get a Student Allowance

You can't get the Student Allowance if you're:

 

  • in prison
  • on a benefit
  • doing paid work as part of your course
  • have a Student Allowance debt that you are not actively paying back.
  • receiving or your partner is receiving either New Zealand Superannuation or Veterans Pension
  • studying a postgraduate course that starts on or after 1 January 2013. [abridged]

 

A little rich

This is more than just a little rich coming from Joyce, who is of the age where you got paid to go to university. This is nothing more than inter-generational theft, as is the whole student loan scheme.

As a taxpayer

As a taxpayer I have (in general) no problem picking up the tab for responsible students undertaking post-graduate study and find Steven Joyce's comments appalling.

They may earn more when they finish their study, but in general they also contribute more.

Is it any wonder people are flocking overseas in droves?

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