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Students are being warned to hurry up and apply for student loans and allowances or risk missing out on payments.
Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows said yesterday students yet to apply risked not getting their payments sorted out by the start of the academic year.
StudyLink had worked hard to make sure students were aware of the consequences of leaving applications to the last minute, he said.
''StudyLink advised students to apply by 16 December. It sent 570,000 emails as well as text messages, material on campus, used Twitter and Facebook, and got help from education providers and student associations to get the message out there.''
''Over 90,000 students responded to that message, a 46% increase on the same time last year, which is great news. These applications will be given priority.
''But as at mid-January, there's more than 60,000 students yet to apply. It's important that students understand that StudyLink is now entering its busiest time.''
A Ministry of Social Development spokesman said as of January 25 there had been 19,883 student loan and allowance applications by University of Otago students, a 10.31% increase on the same time last year, and 4362 applications by Otago Polytechnic students, a 20.3% increase on last year.
Mr Borrows said the large volumes of applications meant it could take more than eight weeks to complete applications, particularly for complex cases requiring additional information such as parents' income.
''My message to students is simple. StudyLink is there to help you, and the sooner you get your application in, the sooner they can do that.''
Otago University Students' Association president Ruby Sycamore-Smith applauded StudyLink for encouraging students to apply early, as last year the association had passed on complaints received about the service.