The New Zealand Union of Student Associations (NZUSA) have responded to the 2020 Budget by saying the “government has taken a band-aid approach” to addressing student hardship.
NZUSA President, Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, recognised that the 2020 ‘Rebuilding Together’ Budget was a step in the right direction, however has missed an opportunity to make critical changes to the tertiary education sector.
One component of Budget 2020 that was supported by NZUSA was a Tertiary Student Hardship Fund. This was advocated for by NZUSA as part of the National Student Action Plan on COVID-19 – an action plan that was supported by student associations across the country.
Leninihan-Ikin was supportive of the $20 million fund, however noted that while the fund provided short-term relief to students facing hardship arising from COVID-19, it did not “go far enough to address the long term challenges” that faced students such as poverty, rising living costs and financial insecurity.
The budget further allocated $1.6 billion dollars for investment in training and apprenticeships to remove the cost of tuition fees. This was widely praised as a positive step in allowing adults of any age to continue their education. This was further supported by a $16 million dollar investment by the government in adult and community education, which was previously defunded under the National government.
NZUSA ultimately recognises that this budget, whilst providing in some aspects, fails in other areas. Lenihan-Ikin was disappointed in the lack of ongoing support measures for students particularly the lack of postgraduate student allowance. Student allowance and loan weekly payments were also noted to be at ‘unliveable levels’.
The 2020 budget is largely focused on supporting New Zealand’s economy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many initiatives introduced aim to increase employment and infrastructure. There however has been criticism of a few areas of the budget, notably the $72 million dollar investment in the racing industry, a figure that is more than three times that of the student hardship fund.