Hardship grants up, says student union

GEOFF LEWIS
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2014

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The amount of hardship grants being handed out to Waikato University students has doubled in a year, the student union says.

Students are beginning to descend on Hamilton as O-Week gets set to kick into full gear next week. The Waikato Student Union has planned an array of events to welcome the newcomers.

Elected union president for a second term, Aaron Letcher said orientation was the beginning of a big year for the organisation which had committed itself to a series of targets aimed at improving its service to students.

"We will be expanding our advocacy service and include budgeting advice because the amount we have been giving out in hardship grants has doubled to about $10,000 a year.

"Part of the reason is that our funding has increased so we have been better able to meet the demand.

"By the time students come to us they're usually pretty desperate."

They would also provide free legal clinics and will be putting a strong focus on student welfare. "The way students live their lives has a big impact on their ability to study.

"When their lives get out of kilter they tend to drop out of study."

Mr Letcher said some additional funding from the university and the student union's own resources had been applied to boost the advocacy, budgeting and legal advice services.

Another target for 2014 would be the development of a food bank for students. "It will be for emergencies. When students come in and they haven't eaten we will be able to give them a voucher or have something immediately on hand.

"We want to be able to run some ‘bring a can' promotions with some of our events," Mr Letcher said. "It's about helping students to help themselves. New students often find they suddenly have to balance a budget. We find through our advocacy work that people's root problem is budgeting."

Officially titled ORI2014, the two-week period is a huge undertaking for the university and the union. This week until Friday comprises academic introductions and tours of the campus and its facilities. Next week is put on by the student union and the annual pool party starts the celebrations.

For more information on O-week, visit waikato.ac.nz.

To learn more about the Waikato Students' Union ORI2014, visit the website, wsu.org.nz

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