The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) believes that today’s speech by the Prime Minister celebrating a $25 increase to the Student Allowance demonstrates how disconnected the Government is from the hardship that the 400,000 students across Aotearoa are currently experiencing.
NZUSA, Te Mana Ākonga, Tauira Pasifika, the National Disabled Students’ Association and 50 other student organisations have been calling for a Universal Education Income to help students reengage in their education post-Covid. This ask was included in the National Student Action Plan on COVID-19 but has gone unheard.
“Ignoring the Universal Education Income proposal while increasing allowances by an amount that doesn’t even match the rent hikes that most students have seen is a slap in the face” says NZUSA National President Andrew Lessells. “Add into the equation that most students aren’t even eligible for the full student allowance, celebrating this token gesture just seems callous when students are dropping out because they can’t afford to live.”
The speech from the Prime Minister came as the Government increases a variety of income and welfare supports on 1 April as inflation tracks at 5.9%. “These changes were announced before we hit crisis point, and it shows. The fact that the Government hasn’t adapted to the new reality shows how utterly disconnected they are” says Lessells.
Students feel that this increase is yet another example of the Government tinkering around the edges when there is a fundamental flaw with the way StudyLink works. Lessells says that “a system that expects postgrad and mature students to live on food parcels is fundamentally wrong. The cost-of-living crisis that students are currently experiencing offers a fantastic opportunity to change how we support students.”
He added, “now is the right time to move away from a discriminatory and ineffective system towards a Universal Education Income that makes sure all students can afford learn, regardless of their age, where they live or what they study.”
“While the introduction of a universal allowance would be bold, students need bold action to survive. A revolutionary moment in the world’s history is a time for revolutions, not for patching. We’re disappointed that the Government hasn’t recognised this.”
NZUSA has conducted initial research on the costs of implementing a Universal Education income that can be read here: https://www.students.org.nz/uei