Coronavirus: University students say Government support package not doing enough to ease financial burden

Students have come out swinging against the increase in course related costs released by the Government to support them through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On Tuesday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced course related costs would be increased by $1000 for a $2000 total. 

Course related costs must be repaid as part of student loans.

Isabella Lenihan-Ikin is the president of the New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA) and she says the package is a disappointment and the Government needs to "get real".

"[The money] fails to meet the hardship needs of tertiary students," said Lenihan-Ikin in a statement on Wednesday.

"Not only does the increase in course related costs force students to take on additional debt, students are unable to put course-related costs towards rent and food costs, despite these being the main areas of student hardship." 

More than 40 students’ associations across New Zealand have said they support implementing a universal student allowance which would allow students to get through the COVID-19 crisis without extra hardship.

The Tertiary Education Union backs the call, saying a universal allowance would ease the strain on students.

"The measures do not go far enough, and the Government should look at making the student allowance universal to all students, at an increased rate," said spokesperson Joshua James. 

The Ministry of Education says the Government understands the plight of students and has acted fast to help them.

"We moved quickly on becoming [the first] government to introduce fees free and an extra $50 a week in support," Minister of Education Chris Hipkins told Newshub in a statement.  

Hipkins says the increase on loans will give the Government time to consider a wider package.

 "The changes announced [on Monday] will provide some assistance for students and gives us time to consider other options as part of a much wider package for the short and medium future of tertiary education."