English implores students: go Greek!
Students’ associations have lent their support to the criticism over changes to the student loan and allowance systems announced in the National Budget on Thursday 24 May.
Following the blockade of central Auckland streets by angry students, Finance Minister Bill English taunted the students over the effectiveness of their protest, telling an audience of business people, “they need some Greeks to show them how to do it.”
English defended the effect of the budget on students, saying their objections "get reported, mainly because [they] blocked the traffic, [but] who's listening? Most people actually think the students got a pretty fair go and they should count themselves lucky that they've still got interest free loans and get on with it because, you know, get your training finished and get a job and start contributing."
OUSA president Logan Edgar disagrees, saying, “We would have liked to have seen some more fine tuning from the Government.” Edgar cited the 200-week cap on the availability of the student allowance as of particular concern: “It just takes away support from people we need to have strong economy and a great country – clinical psychologists, dentists, doctors. Sure it might cut out the people who are here forever and should just graduate but there’s no reason we couldn’t make exceptions to the cap according to performance or based on the course taken or something.”
Todd Dickens, a representative of Young Nats Otago, defended the allowance limits, saying five years was “ample for the majority of students … to be able to receive five years of Student Allowance which you do not need to pay back is fairly generous in my opinion. Rather than focussing on what is reduced, people should be looking at what they receive and how these minor changes are ensuring that tertiary education is going to be easily accessible for all New Zealanders for many generations to come. It is truly investing in the future to maintain a fantastic system, and not continuing an unsustainable system which would short-change New Zealand in the long run.”
Edgar admits that Otago students, unlike their Auckland counterparts, “don’t seem to be creating an uproar about all the cuts to the student support system.” Edgar puts the student apathy down to the changes “not being huge, by themselves. More like nipping round the edges, which we all expected from this government.”
To ensure that students understand the Budget’s announcements, OUSA is holding “Logan’s Budget Briefing” at Clubs’n’Socs this week. When queried on the details, Edgar told Critic that “It’ll be on Wednesday [May 30] probably in the Evision lounge, after the Hare Kirshnas are finished, so around 3pm.” Edgar promised to take action against the budget cuts if that is what scarfies want: “Tell them we’ll put a video on YouTube. If it gets 5,000 likes I’ll lock myself in a cage for another two nights.”