On the 14th of April, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced a support package for full-time, domestic tertiary students across NZ. He stated that COVID-19 has impacted the ability for students to continue their courses and fund their studies. He also expressed that the Government wanted to give students certainty that they would be supported until education providers could put in place alternative methods for teaching and learning.
The package announced includes;
- Increasing the student loan amount for course-related costs for full-time students from $1000 to $2000, on a temporary basis;
- Continued support payments for students who are unable to study online for up to 8 weeks (this includes both Student Allowance and Weekly Living Costs under a loan, but you must remain enrolled at the university in order to receive them)
Technical changes that will ensure that:
- Students that receive partial tuition fee refunds in 2020, due to the discontinuation of a course because of COVID-19, will remain unaffected in their entitlement to student loans
- When students are unable to complete a course of study in 2020 due to COVID-19, this will not affect their entitlement to Fees Free study.
If your parents’ income changes due to COVID-19 you may be eligible for Student Allowance, or a higher rate of Student Allowance. Studylink has also highlighted their emergency cost services, which are available over the phone. Hipkins also highlights support for students’ mental health needs, referring to online services such as the Lowdown and Mental Health Foundation. Studylink echoes this, with links to Youthline and Need to Talk posted on their COVID-19 news page.
Hipkins also noted that the government would be working on a second package to prepare the tertiary system for significant growth, with greater numbers of New Zealanders expected to retrain and enter new industries.
You have been able to access these supports through Studylink (both online and over the phone), the Ministry of Education and their universities since the 15th of April. Most sites have this information accessible on their homepage and the phone lines are open if you need any assistance.
The government response has been met with criticism from students, who feel it does not go far enough to counteract the financial hardship many will be facing. This package is the only COVID-19 financial support that comes in the form of a loan, and some feel that it is an acknowledgement that course-related costs have long been used to assist living costs by students facing hardship (this use of course-related costs means students are technically committing fraud).
The university and the AUSA are providing a number of support options for students facing financial difficulties in light of COVID-19.
Students can apply for dedicated COVID-19 Hardship support online through the University of Auckland website. To access these funds you must be a currently enrolled student in New Zealand, and be able to demonstrate that you are facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. According to the university, this could include bank statements or correspondence with your employer. There is also guidance available on the university’s website around managing rent, groceries and internet, accessing the wage subsidy, employment rights and Studylink payments.
If you are experiencing difficulties with online study, you may be able to access support such as loan computers by completing the “Helping you study remotely” survey. This can also be accessed through the university website.
Students who were previously living in university accommodation and have returned home without cancelling their contract should now be receiving reduced rent. This should be applied to your account, however if you have any problems you should contact the university accommodation team.
The AUSA is still running their advocacy services. They can assist you with issues related to the university or other areas such as tenancy. You can message them through their Facebook page, AUSA Advocacy, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in an online contact form. The AUSA also has hardship grants of up to $250.00 for students in need. To be eligible for this, you must be a University of Auckland student who is not an AUSA staff member, you must be employed, seeking employment or unable to do so and be experiencing severe financial difficulties. To be considered, you must fill in the online form on the AUSA’s website.
The AUSA have also set up a dedicated page on their website providing students with information and resources related to COVID-19. This includes a lot of helpful information and answers to questions you might be wondering about during the pandemic.
The University has also listed resources for students struggling with their physical safety in isolation. Students are encouraged to access services such as the Shine Helpline, Are you OK, Need to Talk and Women’s Refuge. Health and counselling services are also available throughout the remote learning process, which you can access through the university website.