Hall charges under fire from Green MP

Chloe Swarbrick has learned a lot in her first two years in Parliament. Photo: NZ Herald
Chloe Swarbrick. Photo: NZ Herald
The University of Otago could be damaging its reputation by persisting in charging students for hall of residence rooms they are not occupying, an MP says.

Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick fought against Victoria University of Wellington’s decision to charge students, despite the fact they could not live in their hall due to Covid-19 restrictions.

That decision was reversed after significant public pressure, and Ms Swarbrick hoped the University of Otago would make a similar call.

The average cost was about $400 per week, and the university was paying a rebate of $120 per week for students in university-owned colleges who had shifted elsewhere during the lockdown.

Of the 3500 students who lived in University of Otago-affiliated halls, 2000 left in the 48-hour period given to make a decision about staying or returning to their homes, she said.

She said the university could choose to ‘‘do the right thing’’ and stop charging students, or ‘‘continue to operate in a way that I would argue is not beneficial to upholding the reputation that Otago University has held for so long’’.

A university spokeswoman said it may later consider further financial adjustment beyond the initial rebate made available.

‘‘This consideration will occur only once we have certainty from Government in respect of the time and conditions under which students will be able to return to their colleges, and a knowledge of any Government budget announcements relating to additional funding support for students or for tertiary institutions.’’

She said college students experiencing financial hardship should contact college leaders about applying for the Putea Tautoko hardship support initiative.



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