Zero budget  provides zero funny headlines

Zero budget provides zero funny headlines

The National Government announced the 2012-2013 Budget Thursday 24 May amidst student protest against the changes to the student loan and allowance system.

While Bill English’s ‘zero’ Budget was generally described as political commentators as “forgettable”, “dull” and “boring”, Auckland students attempted to prove otherwise, with 400 protestors blocking the central Auckland intersection of Symonds St and Grafton Road for most of the afternoon. The protest was supported by the Auckland University Students’ Association and was organised by Blockade The Budget, a group that opposes the budget on the grounds that it will negatively affect students, as well as middle and lower income citizens. The protesting students gathered at Symonds Street at around 1.30pm and remained until 6.30pm, diverting traffic flow and disrupting public transport. In Wellington 100 protestors gathered outside Parliament, including a group of students who had marched from Victoria University to voice their opposition to increases in student loan repayments. Students from Dunedin were suitably apathetic, preferring to quietly attend lectures or consume a sneaky afternoon SoGo rather than exercise their democratic right to freedom of assembly.

Changes affecting students were announcd in a pre-budget announcement on May 3. Graduates will now have to pay off their loans at 12%, rather than 10%, on any earnings over $19,084. Any additional voluntary repayments will no longer benefit from a 10% discount after National cancelled its loan repayment incentive scheme.

The parental income threshold on student allowances will be frozen until 2016, and eligible students will only be able to claim the allowance for 200 weeks. With the academic year consisting of 38 weeks, this will allow students to receive the allowance for five years of study, enough time to complete most double degrees but insufficient to cover medical postgraduate and medical qualifications.

Further announcements affecting the tertiary sector were included in the budget last Thursday. Fee increases will remain at the current limit of 4% per annum. Universities will get an extra 8.8% in funding for equiavalent full-time students in professsional engineeing courses, and 2% extra for full-time science students. Funding for other courses remains the same, with no rise to account for inflation. Universities will pick up another $9 million in 2013 to fund enrolment growth, but they will lose the last $5 million for adult and community education.

Tertiary education commentator Dave Guerin told Critic the budget sees a shifting focus by the government from its previous strategy of reducing support to students who do not perform well in courses or fail to pay back their loans. “The cut for allowances to postgraduate students is one of the first examples of the Government cutting student support for ‘positive’ activity. Over the last couple of years they’ve focused on recent NZ residents (who often don’t stay), students with poor pass rates, and the over 55s (who don’t pay back their loans). The Government is making a call that incoming postgrad students will be committed enough to continue study and see future opportunities – it remains to be seen whether it works.”
This article first appeared in Issue 13, 2012.
Posted 7:40pm Sunday 27th May 2012 by Charlotte Greenfield and Callum Fredric.