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Labour allowance bribe sews up the campus vote

Oct 17th, 2008 | By | Category: Features

 YEAH LABOUR!  Wellington students mostly love the bribe. From left:  Olivia Shanks (18) Victoria and Massey University: This has been a dream of Helen’s for a long time and I think it will create equality, which is what this country needs. Mike Peters (18) Massey: It’s a good thing because students are coming out of university with huge debts and it’s ruining the economy. You have to pay off debts instead of investing in property. Meredith Barley (18) Massey: I guess it will be good for some people, but they are just trying to get the student vote by offering them this.

It’s also a hit with parents

LABOUR’S election promise to give allowances to many more students by 2012 is a big hit on Wellington’s university and polytech campuses.

Most of those who currently miss out on the allowances – worth about $7000 a year – say they will now definitely vote for Labour, according to a NewsWire survey conducted at Massey University and Whitireia Community Polytechnic.

Parents of young children are keen on the policy, too, as they think ahead to university education for their families.

Lifting the parental income limit for students aged 18 to 24 will be phased in over four years, roughly doubling the amount paid out by the government from the current total $400 million paid to 62,000 to about $800 million to be given to an estimated 110,000 or more by 2012.

Massey student Perry Graham says he will vote Labour just for this policy: “I don’t get an allowance so I have to work just to buy food and it makes study so much harder.”

Whitireia student Laura Frykberg says she thinks this is “a bloody good idea. The amount of money your parents earn really doesn’t depend on how much they will give you.”

Adam Rylance, Massey, says he thinks the current system is crap: “It makes it so much harder for students whose parents have money but don’t support them at Uni. I’ll vote for Labour.”

Jenny Meyer, Whitireia, says she expects her children to be at university by 2012 “and then they will get it”.   

Whitireia’s Paul McBeth says the policy will not on its own influence him to vote Labour, “but it’s a step in the right direction. It should’ve happened along time ago. A lot of people can’t afford to go to university without one.”

Not every student would spend the extra money quite as Labour intends. Megan at Massey said it was “money we need, for booze and stuff.”

Few negative comments came from the dozens surveyed. Whitireia’s Melissa Kinealy says the allowance change will benefit some people but cuts out those whose partners earn over $45,000. So for some people it will not change anything.

Massey Students Association co-president Paul Falloon says the association is “really stoked” about the announcement: “It’s a positive thing, not just for students but for families as it’s becoming harder and harder for them to support their kids.

“This is also a big step towards the end to a significant amount of the $10 billion [student loan] debt monster held by the community.”

He hopes everyone will support the scheme: “The timing is a bit suspicious, but it doesn’t undermine the value of the policy.”

At this early stage, education authorities are unable to estimate whether increasing the pool of students getting allowances will cause a corresponding drop in those taking out student loans.

In 2007, there were over 444,000 students enrolled in tertiary education, with only 62,505 receiving a student allowance.

Fifty-seven percent of all students are aged between 18 and 24 years of age. The average allowance allocated to individual students per year is $5724, with an average accommodation allowance of $1101.

The new system will gradually raise the current parental income threshold for 18 to 24-year-olds from $45,000, before abolishing it completely in 2012.

Explaining the policy, a spokesman for Tertiary Education Minister Pete Hodgson says it will cost $15 million extra in 2008/09, $55 million more the year after, then $140 million, and finally the $210 million, a total increase of $420 million.

Helen Clark says Labour could afford the plan, having “prioritised” for it, but National deputy leader Bill English says Labour is “writing cheques it can’t cash”.

Helen Clark introduced interest free student loans just before the 2005 election, a move identified by political commentators as the turning point of the campaign. Some are speculating it might have the same effect this time.

Aaron Caskey (29)    Whitireia   

 The old scheme was really unfair. A lot of my friends had them and didn’t need them; others didn’t have them and couldn’t afford to live. It’s fairer this way.

David Tappenden (19) Massey University

It’s a good idea; it bridges the gap so that middle class students don’t have to miss out.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student.
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