$130m support package for students

The Government will spend more than $130 million on a student support package, which aims to assist financially embattled students dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was speaking at her post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon. She was joined by Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

Ardern confirmed many students will be able to borrow $1000 more on their student loan to tide them over until firmer decisions about tertiary education are made.

The increase to the student loan amount available is part of a wider support package for tertiary students who may be struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A raft of new initiatives have been announced, aimed at providing students with as much certainty as possible during uncertain times.

The announcement includes:

• Increasing the student loan amount available for course-related costs for full-time students from $1000 to $2000, on a temporary basis

• The continuation of support payments for students unable to study on-line for up to 8 weeks

• Ensuring students receive partial tuition fee refunds in 2020 if their course has been discontinued due to Covid-19 (this will not affect their future entitlement to student loans)

• Ensuring that if a student is unable to complete a course of study in 2020 due to Covid-19, it will not affect their entitlement to Fees Free tertiary study.

Watch full media briefing here:

Ardern said education and retraining will be a key part of New Zealand's economic recovery. The package was important for struggling students across the country.

She thanked the Student Volunteer army, and those who have been helping students over these uncertain times. She also thanked teachers for helping with distance learning.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement: "Covid-19 is impacting students' ability to financially contribute to and continue their studies."

He added that this support package would help support students until tertiary education providers can put in place alternative ways of delivering teaching and learning.

"This package provides relief to students straight away while we adapt to the immediate challenges posed by our response to Covid-19."

Domestic students who are enrolled in full-time tertiary study can access these supports from tomorrow.

Hipkins revealed that the Government is also working on a second package of changes.

These, he said, would prepare the tertiary system for "significant growth in participation" as more New Zealanders look to retrain to get back into the workforce.

The cost of the package is $133 million, split between $35 million in operating funding and $98 million in capital expenditure.

This money will come out of the Government's Tertiary Education budget.

"Covid-19 is impacting students' ability to financially contribute to and continue their studies," Education Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement.

Who does this package apply to?

It applies to all fulltime domestic students studying at university, polytechs, or private training establishments this year whether they are enrolled already or planning to enrol.

What do students have to do to apply for support?

Information will be available from StudyLink (MSD), the Ministry of Education and their provider.

Do students have to extend their allowance or loan?

No, students will be able to opt-out if they do not want to increase their loan.

What additional support is available for students' mental health needs?

Students can access mental health support services through their providers. The way these services are delivered may have changed, for example interviews may now be online or by phone. Students should talk to their providers regarding how to access these services.

DEATH TOLL CLIMBS 

Earlier today, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced there had been four more deaths linked to Covid-19 and this was a "sobering reminder" of what's at stake in the fight against the pandemic.

It is the country's highest number of deaths in a day so far.

The Covid-19 death toll is now nine, including six elderly people from the Rosewood rest home cluster, but despite the sad news, Bloomfield said New Zealand appeared to be past its Covid-19 peak.

Bloomfield confirmed 17 new cases since yesterday, made up of eight new confirmed cases and nine new probable cases. The new combined total of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand is 1366.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the latest deaths were a "sad and sobering reminder," of the importance of sticking to the level 4 lockdown.

"It is our deadliest day to date... It's also a reminder of how much worse the spread and death toll would be had we not taken the action we have taken to break the chain of infection."

- NZ Herald and RNZ

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