Students say they're still poorer than the unemployed

Students say unemployed people who pretend to be studying to get extra money from the Government are in for a shock.

National's tertiary education spokesman Paul Goldsmith on Sunday said the Government's $50 a week boost to the student allowance would encourage people to sign up for university with no intention of actually studying.

"What's to stop any sensible beneficiary taking advantage and enrolling in study in order to pocket an extra $50 a week?"

The maximum student allowance for under-25s is going up to $227 a week, while the jobseeker support benefit for people the same age is $177.

"While all Kiwis would like to see unemployed New Zealanders engaging in genuine study, decoupling student allowances from benefit levels opens the system to abuse," said Mr Goldsmith.

Jonathan Gee, president of the NZ University Students Association (NZUSA), said National left out the accommodation benefits that are on offer, which greatly favour the unemployed.

"While the previous Government claimed they pegged the student allowance to the jobseeker benefit, they pledged greater increases to the accommodation supplement, compared with the accommodation benefit for students."

According to the Work and Income website unemployed people can claim up to $160 a week on top of their jobseeker benefit, depending on their rent or mortgage.

In contrast, Mr Gee says the most students can claim will be $60 (from April 1).

"From 2018 students will still be up to $100 worse off than beneficiaries with respect to accommodation support," said Mr Gee.

"Students who have been on other benefits have told us that going into tertiary study has been a big financial sacrifice for them and their families. Let's see the $50 increase in student support for what it is - an increase to meet basic needs. Any suggestion that it will create a rort is totally refutable."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said anyone planning to "rort the system" will be "clamped down on and then they'll lose their ability to access the system any further".

And tertiary providers could lose funding if they sign up people who have no intention of completing their studies, said Mr Hipkins, under rules introduced by the previous National Government.