StudyLink, working with the New Zealand Union of Students’ Association (NZUSA), has made efforts to improve its services for students.
NZUSA said students were “deeply unhappy” with StudyLink’s service in 2013 and made improving StudyLink a top priority. In 2013, the number of unanswered calls was 800,000. In a recent press release, the union claimed that this has been slashed to less than 8000.
The collaboration came after a large amount of negative feedback in 2013 and reportedly thousands of students not getting their allowance on time. Both the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and NZUSA said the improvements were a great example of how the government and students could work hand in hand.
Rory McCourt, the president of NZUSA was highly pleased with the service’s improvements. “Undoubtedly StudyLink is a much better service than it was a couple of years ago and I’m proud we could be part of making that turnaround happen alongside the government.”
The improvements to the system were accomplished by specialising StudyLink’s workforce. For example, a small team was created to deal with password issues. According to NZUSA, this freed up staff to deal with more complex issues. Other improvements included shorter call-waiting times, pre-filled forms and digital document scanning — so that fewer documents were misplaced during the application process.
The MSD’s Associate Deputy Chief Executive Service Delivery, Marama Edwards, said the government worked closely with NZUSA to meet students’ needs. “We’re very pleased with the progress we have made over the past two years. In 2015 StudyLink has processed 75% of all student allowance applications before study start date compared with 70% in 2014. For student loans, 94% were processed compared with 93.4% for 2014.”
Rory McCourt admitted that improvements could still be made to StudyLink, however he was very pleased that most students are getting the allowance they are entitled to. He says that this means NZUSA can increase its focus on arguing for more liveable incomes for students. “Now that we have sorted most people getting their entitlement on time, we can start talking about the fact that students don’t have enough money to live off and that the government needs to increase student support.”