The government has announced changes to the course related costs limit as part of a Tertiary Student Support Package.
Full-time domestic students can now borrow up to $2000 in course related costs. This total is added onto student loans and must be paid back.
Students can apply for the extra course related costs online through the Studylink website. However, there are limitations on what the funds can be used for. Borrowed course related costs cannot be used to pay for normal accomodation costs, such as weekly rent. Students who do not use course related costs for their intended purpose would technically be committing fraud.
The announcement has been met with mixed reactions. While some are just happy to have an extra $1000, others, such as The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) President Isabella Lenihan-Ikin has highlighted that “students remain the only group in society that are forced to borrow to live during this period of uncertainty.”
NZUSA have been vocal in their criticism of the package. “The announcement…fails to meet the hardship needs of tertiary students. 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”.
The NZUSA has also claimed that they were not consulted on the package. Speaking to Otago student magazine Critic, Lenihan-Ikhin said despite multiple attempts to contact the office of Minister for Education Chris Hipkins, they have heard no response.
The Auckland University Students’ Association have also publicly criticised the government’s student support package. In a post published to their Facebook page, the AUSA expressed disappointment with the fact that students have to incur more debt in order to support themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. The AUSA, along with 43 other students’ associations in New Zealand, supports the NZUSA’s National Student Action Plan on COVID-19. The main points of the plan include a universal student allowance, creating a COVID-19 hardship fund and ensuring students can access a larger winter energy payment. The plan also argues for increased mental health support for students during and after the lockdown.
Students who enrolled in courses that have now been cancelled due to COVID-19 will still be able to access support from Studylink for a further eight weeks. Student loan entitlements will not be affected by cancellations, and students in their first year with courses cancelled will still be eligible for fees-free should they choose to re-enrol in tertiary education.