Students call for action over rising rents

  • 06/04/2017
NZUSA is calling for the parental income threshold to be unfrozen and the allowance to be raised. (Getty)
NZUSA is calling for the parental income threshold to be unfrozen and the allowance to be raised. (Getty)

Students associations are calling for an urgent bump in support payments amid what they say are soaring rental prices in Auckland.

They're not likely to get one - Tertiary Education Minister Paul Goldsmith says New Zealand has one of the most generous student support systems in the world.

The associations say that in the last five years, the price of renting a room in a three-bedroom home in the city has risen from $175 to $250 a week, according to their 2017 income and Expenditure Report.

The survey takes email-based responses from 1000 students across 11 universities and polytechnics and is conducted every two or three years.

Mr Goldsmith says New Zealand has a cost-sharing model, like many other countries.

"The government invests around $4.1 billion each year in funding tertiary education, and New Zealand has one of the most generous student support systems in the world, spending over $1.14b on financial support in 2015/16," he said.

"Around 28 per cent of tertiary education spending is to support students through their studies, including nearly $490 million on student allowances."

National Student President Jonathan Gee says the $217 students could receive in allowances now did little to provide relief and that student hardship has grown "considerably" worse since 2011.

"That year, the government froze the parental income threshold for eligibility, a significant factor in locking out 24,000 students from having access to the student allowance," he said.

Only a third of full-time students now received allowances, contributing to growing student debt as the rest had to borrow, he said.

The association is calling for the parental income threshold to be unfrozen and the allowance to be raised.

Its report also highlighted concerns that not enough was being done to get students from low-decile high schools into tertiary education, with only a third of graduates from decile 1 to 3 schools attending universities, compared to two-thirds from decile 8 to 10 schools.

The association has asked the government to consider a scholarship for those that are the first in their family to attend a tertiary institution.

The Greens say students shouldn't be spending more than 100 per cent of their support income on rent.

"New Zealand wants a world-class education system, but if students can't afford heating, housing or sufficient food how are they supposed to focus on learning?" said tertiary education spokesman Gareth Hughes.

NZN