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
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
''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.