Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 4, 1975
There has been an angry reaction from students around the country to the restrictive conditions of the hardship allowance announced by the Minister of Education on March 10.
The few students who are eligible for the allowance are finding that they will have to reveal complete details of their incomes before their applications can be processed. The parents of unmarried students will also be means-tested.
There has also been strong criticism of the Government's failure to publicise the hardship allowance and of the fact that applications for the allowance close on March 31. And the 240 pharmacy students at the Central Institute of Technology at Heretaunga, who are also eligible for the allowance, have been told nothing about it at all.
According to the Minister of Education's statement on March 10 a hardship allowance "not exceeding $150 per annum" will be granted to "those university and pharmacy students, currently receiving a boarding allowance in conjunction with a fees and allowances bursary, who are able to prove financial hardship to the satisfaction of the Department of Education." This hardship allowance will be means-tested and it is simply an extension of the hardship allowances which are provided for under regulation 22 of the University Bursaries Regulations (197J).
Students who apply for the hardship allowance have to fill out an application form which asks them to state every detail of their incomes, including holiday earnings, all other savings and investments, assets other than money and whether an applicant owns a motor vehicle.
Question 6 of the application form for unmarried students asks applicants to state whether they receive any assistance from their parents or guardians and "why they are unable to assist you or to provide further assistance."
Parents of unmarried students also have to fill out a form detailing their average weekly gross income from all sources, their total savings and investments, the number of children under 18 years who they fully support and the number of people in the family working and giving some support to the family income. Parents are also asked to state why they are unable to assist the applicant or to provide any further assistance.
The questions on the application form make it clear that the Education Department considers that before a student can expect any assistance from the state, he or she will first have to call on their own financial resources, including their cars and non-monetary assets, and then seek financial assistance from their parents, brothers and sisters. This would appear to be the case regardless of a student's age, whether he or she lives at home, or their relations with their parents.
According to a statement released in Hamilton last week by NZUSA and the Waikato University Students' Association there is a glaring inconsistency between the criteria used by the Education Department to determine eligibility for this hardship allowance and the criteria adopted by the Social Welfare Department for students who applied for an emergency unemployment benefit over the last vacation.
In a letter to NZUSA dated December 16 last year the Minister of Social Welfare said that it had been decided to disregard the financial circumstances of parents of applicants for an emergency unemployment benefit "in all cases except where an unmarried student is residing at home with his parents."
The point is that only those students who qualify for a boarding allowance, i.e. who are living away from their parents' home town, are eligible for the hardship allowance. If they had been applying for an emergency unemployment benefit their parents' financial circumstances would have been disregarded. But in the case of the hardship allowance, their parents' financial circumstances will be rigorously means-tested.
Married students will to have to get their parents to complete a form detailing - all the sources of their incomes. However, their husbands or wives will be expected to support them before they can call on the state to give any assistance. And it is clear from the application form that the Education Department will not consider the cases of solo parents or those living in de facto relationships as "married students". Nor does it appear that the Education Department will take into account the fact that some married students have children to support.
According to the application forms for the hardship allowances, applications will have to be completed and handed into university liaison officers before March 31. But as March 31 is Easter Monday, students will in fact have to hand their applications in by Thursday, March 27. The application forms only reached university registries on March 17 and the Education Department has not explained how it expects unmarried students whose parents live out of town to send their application forms home for their parents to complete and have them back in a maximum of ten days. Furthermore the Education Department has failed to provide the universities with any publicity about the existence of the hardship allowances. The universities have been expected to administer the allowances and some of them have been forced to hire extra staff to get applications processed quickly.
The administration of one university has already told the Education Department that it will ignore the March 31 deadline for applications. "Salient" understands that other universities are likely to follow suit.
The Education Department has made it difficult enough for university students to apply for the hardship allowances. But it appears to have decided to make it virtually impossible for pharmacy students to apply.
There is only one pharmacy course in the country outside the degree course at Otago University. This course is taught at the Central Institute of Technology at Heretaunga which is situated between Silverstream and Upper Hutt. 240 students are taking the three year course and as about 90% of them come from outside of Wellington, most would be eligible to apply for the hardship allowance.
But these students have heard nothing about the hardship allowance other than what they have read in the newspapers. The Education Department has failed to publicise the existence of the hardship allowance on their campus. The C.I.T administration officer who handles bursaries works at the C.I.T. campus at Petone, a 20 minute train trip away from Heretaunga. The Education Department has not explained how pharmacy students are expected to get their application forms for the allowance from the C.I.T. campus at Petone when they are required to attend classes at Heretaunga throughout the day.