Students cry poor but minister unmoved

Minister unmoved by calls for higher living cost

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014
Annabelle Nichols
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

A WEEKLY STRUGGLE: Third-year Victoria University student Annabelle Nichols says borrowing for living costs from the government loan scheme doesn't come close to meeting the increasing rent for her Mt Victoria flat.

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University students are able to borrow just $23 more from the Government to meet their living costs than they could in 1999 - and they say that's nowhere near enough to meet the rising costs of flatting in Wellington or Auckland.

But Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has made it clear they are not going to get any more in this year's Budget, and says students already have "one of the most generous support systems in the world".

Students who don't qualify for the means-tested student allowance are able to borrow money interest-free to meet their living costs. The amount is added to the total of their student loan.

From January 1999 to December 2008, they could borrow up to $150 a week. The limit has risen slowly since, and now stands at $173.56, which Mr Joyce says is in line with the rise in inflation.

But Victoria University third-year student Annabelle Nichols said she and many of her friends were left in the red at the end of each week, and disagreed with Mr Joyce that living costs had kept pace with inflation.

The 19-year-old has to find $60 a week on top of the borrowed amount to cover her remaining rent and bills. Then there's food, transport and clothing.

As a full-time education and history student she has time for up to 20 hours a week at her nannying and retail jobs, but said being able to borrow more to cover high Wellington rent prices would ease the pressure.

Mr Joyce said these were "tough times for everybody" and he very much doubted that students were any worse off than in previous years.

Labour tertiary education spokesman Grant Robertson said the entire loan and allowance system needed to be reviewed.

What are living costs?

Tertiary students can borrow for weekly expenses if they don't qualify for the student allowance. The amount is added to a student loan.

The cost of borrowing to live:

January 1, 1999, to December 31, 2008 – $150 a week

January 1, 2009, to March 31, 2009 – $155 a week

April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010 – $160.24 a week

April 1, 2010, to March 31, 2010 – $163.38 a week

April 1, 2011, to March 31, 2011 – $169.51 a week

April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013 – $172.51 a week

April 1, 2013 – $173.56 a week

Source: StudyLink

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