The government confirmed this week that it will boost financial support for tertiary students and is on track to deliver fees-free courses from next year.

Confirmed changes to tertiary education have been warmly welcomed by students.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced student allowances will increase by an extra $50 per week and the government was on track to deliver the first year of fees-free education and training.

“From 1 January, student allowance base rates and the maximum amount students can borrow for living costs will rise by a net $50 a week,” he said in a statement.

“Where the allowance rate reflects the living costs of two adults, the increase will be $100 net a week.”

Unsurprisingly, this change has been welcomed by The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

The organisation’s 2017 Income and Expenditure Report found that median student spending is currently $300.28 per week, and most of this went towards rising rent prices, food and other living expenses.

“This is big news for students. The boost will be the first substantial increase to student support in over a decade,” said NZUSA national president Jonathan Gee in a statement.

“All we’ve been asking for is enough to live on. A $50 increase will mean that current students can focus more on their academic success rather than economic survival. It will also provide an added incentive for prospective students who have been deterred from tertiary study due to high costs,” Gee said.

Massey University Wellington student Rebecca Haig agrees, and says her first year has been tough financially.

“The money I’ve had this year doesn’t quite cover my rent and living expenses, so I don’t see it before it goes out to pay for everything.

“An extra fifty dollars would mean that everything would be covered and I might have ten dollars spare each week,” she says.

Haig is studying communications and linguistics and currently holds down two part-time jobs in hospitality and retail, but says she’s lucky because her parents can help her financially if she really needs it.
“Not all my friends are so lucky – lots of people are working more than one job and their situation is quite vulnerable.

“Then other students I know have found it hard to find part-time work that fits in with their study, and rent is so expensive at the moment. Everyone is really struggling,” she says.

Haig admits that alongside finding flexible work, ensuring enough time is set aside for study can be challenging for students under financial pressure.

“If you want to do well and stay at university, you have to put aside proper time for each paper, but when you’re juggling other jobs that can be hard,” she says.

The Government is also on track to deliver the first year of fees-free education and training from the beginning of 2018. Labour’s flagship policy to offer three years of free tertiary study by 2024 is still on the table, but more details are expected to be released before the end of the year.

“Final decisions are being worked through, and students can rest assured that the first year of fees-free study will kick in next year and they should plan accordingly. We expect to be in a position to make announcements soon,” Hipkins said.

“The changes for 2018 are just the first step in the process as the Government rolls out a full programme of three years’ fees-free tertiary education for New Zealanders by 2024 alongside better support for living costs.”

The new tertiary policies are going to affect Australians too, 4600 of whom currently study at universities in New Zealand.

At the moment, Australian students pay domestic fees to attend university here and need to have lived in the country for three years if they’re to qualify for student allowances and loans.

Under the changes, Australians will need to have lived in New Zealand for three years in order to qualify for the free year of study.

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