Survey links tertiary drop-outs to financial struggles

By Talisa Kupenga

Tertiary students are calling for an urgent increase in government support given the significant gap between the high cost of living and their incomes. Results from a UNITEC survey released today shows almost a third of students regularly go without food and basic necessities because they simply can't afford it.

Drew Riwhi-Harding says student hardship has reached a breaking point and day-to-day living continues to be a struggle.

"In a week you're looking at spending about $300 - $350 in terms of just making it to class so it starts adding up really fast. That's how a lot of students end up with like five jobs and they get really stressed and drop out of uni because they can’t afford it."

Of the nearly 2000 UNITEC survey respondents, half of all students and two-thirds of Māori say at some point in the past year their income could not cover living costs. A third of all students and nearly half of Māori consider withdrawal from study due to financial or work-study-life pressures.

"I probably had three jobs running at once at the most. The income helped but you're offsetting money against stress because you're working hard but you're forgetting to study and then you're stressing because you're forgetting to study and you've got stuff due in."

  • The average rent for a room in Auckland can be upwards of $250.
  • Student allowance can provide $218 at no cost and those not entitled to the allowance can claim living costs of up to $178.81, which needs to be paid back.
  • If students also work to supplement their income, one dollar is deducted from their allowance for every dollar earned above $214.30 each week.

"The Government is wanting people who are trained and qualified to do jobs. In order for that to happen, you need to support those people studying and you're not doing that."

The government pays around 80% of the full tertiary education provision cost for students, which includes interest-free loans. Taxpayers also contribute to living costs through allowances or student loans, which the government says is reasonable.

Link to other related stories - Survey renews calls for urgent increase in student support