Student allowance numbers plummet

Future parents strive for lower incomes

The number of students receiving the student allowance in Dunedin has dropped by 23.8 per cent between 2012 and 2013. According to opponents of allowance entitlement cuts, the numbers indicate that Government policies are having a serious impact on the student populace of Dunedin in particular.

The numbers plummeted from 6327 students receiving the allowance in 2012 to 4822 last year. In the same period, allowances dropped from 96,908 to 85,094 nationally, amounting to a net fall of 12.2 per cent.

According to Labour tertiary education spokesman Grant Robertson, stagnant parental income thresholds and the abolishment of post-graduate allowances are largely responsible. He believes that the alterations will hit learners from poorer backgrounds the most. ‘’It just makes it much, much harder for those people from low-income backgrounds to get access to tertiary education. Our view is that we should create the opportunities for people to be able to study further, not put up barriers in their way.’’

OUSA President Ruby Sycamore-Smith agrees, and has made clear that the Student Association will do its best to make the voices of University of Otago students heard in this year’s General Election. ‘’The OUSA is in favour of universal student allowances and will be strongly advocating this to all parties in the lead-up to the 2014 election.’’

Sycamore-Smith has initiated a review of OUSA’s fees, loans and allowances policy, which will aim to update current policy on these issues. A paper has been drafted and is being circulated around Executive members for input prior to formal discussion. This will be taken to referendum, to test student opinion, and then pushed to all political parties as the view of Otago students.

According to OUSA estimates, between 172 and 555 fewer Dunedin students will receive an allowance in 2014. Critic wonders why OUSA’s margin for error was so huge, but speculated that the Executive had run out of fingers to count on after discovering their stock of calculators had mysteriously disappeared. Further observations suggest that despite a tightening on allowance eligibility, there is no evidence that students are transferring to loans.

The student allowance for away-from-home students is granted to those whose parents’ combined income amounts to less than $90,000 per year. This figure is renewed annually on April Fool’s Day so that adjustments for inflation can be made.
This article first appeared in Issue 2, 2014.
Posted 4:44pm Sunday 2nd March 2014 by Thomas Raethel.