Higher education students spend more than half of their income on rent – survey

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Chloe Swarbrick, Green Party spokesperson for higher education. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Green Party is urging rent control and more support after a poll found two-thirds of university students regularly struggle to afford food and other necessities.

The People’s Student Welfare Survey is a self-selection survey of over 4,500 students, commissioned by the Green Party, National Union of Student Unions (NZUSA) and Maori Students (Te Mana Ākonga), Pacific (Tauira Pasifika) and Disabled (National Association of Disabled Students).

He found :

On average, students living in shared accommodation spend 54% of their income on rent.

About two-thirds regularly did not have enough money to buy food, clothes, pay bills, get health care or other basic needs. Disabled, Maori or Pasifika students were most likely to be in this position.

58% of students felt supported by their education provider’s response to Covid-19.

69% reported poorer mental health during the pandemic and said it negatively impacted their studies.

Two-thirds said they could not afford transport or vehicle costs, with 91% saying they would use public transport more if it were free.

14% of students living in shared accommodation said the accommodation did not meet their needs due to cold, damp, mould, overcrowding, noise, lack of maintenance and poor furniture.

About three-quarters were uncomfortable raising concerns with their landlord or tenancy court for fear of rent increases or being evicted.

60% of students are not financially supported by their parents, including those whose income exceeds the ceiling for entitlement to the student allowance.

64% of students sacrifice time in class to work in order to support themselves.

91% favored rent control, 82% favored a suitability mandate.

In a statement, Green Party higher education spokeswoman Chloe Swarbrick said policy decisions had entrenched and normalized student poverty over the past decades.

She said education was a public good that benefited everyone, but students struggled financially. She called on the government to accept the inquiry’s recommendation for a universally accessible student allowance not inhibited by part-time employment income that could cover the cost of living.

“The minority of students who can access the stipend today are in real terms hundreds of dollars worse off per month than students just ten years ago, which is nothing when the Education was effectively free before the 1980s,” she said.

“Internationally and locally accepted ‘affordability’ measures indicate that no one should spend more than 30% of their income on housing. We need healthy, affordable housing for everyone.”

The survey was designed with input from Point and Associates, was distributed by Swarbrick and student unions, and a 10% subset of responses weighted by gender, ethnicity, and regional demographic averages has been analyzed.

He also recommended enforcing the government’s pastoral care code of practice introduced last year, free public transport for students, rent control, a fitness rental mandate and improving the accessibility and capacity of mental health services.

NZUSA National Vice-Chairman Sam Blackmore said Education Minister Chris Hipkins had broken his promise to extend the student allowance to postgraduate students, and that the payments should be sufficient to be livable.

“This survey has proven that students are struggling to make ends meet,” he said.

“A weekly payment to every student, regardless of education level, age, or parental income, would help students meet day-to-day expenses and reduce long-term debt.”

He urged the government to respect the recommendations of the inquiry.

“Our Prime Minister says ‘education is the greatest enabler of society’ and promised just five years ago a free higher education system to improve the lives of students. Yet today, thanks to deliberate political choices and overt inaction, students remain among the most vulnerable people in our communities, living in an environment that makes them sick from mold and cold, while eating noodles in two minutes. »

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