By Susie Nordqvist
Government cuts to students’ allowances are forcing some to consider ditching their studies.
Around 5000 university students will be affected by the cuts to be brought in next year, and some who thought their funding was safe are now finding it's not.
Nicki Atkinson is studying to become a natural history filmmaker. She signed up for three years of study and thought changes to the student allowance scheme would not affect her.
“When the Budget was announced in May, I looked online and at a number of press releases, and particularly the StudyLink website, and the impression I came away with was very clear – that these changes would not affect those who were enrolled in a two or three year post-graduate course before 2013.”
The Government said earlier this year that it was scrapping student allowances for post-graduate students, but with exception.
“Students who apply for student allowances in 2013 for an enrolment period that started in 2012 will not be affected,” said Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, speaking in the House in May.
Students who applied for allowance in 2013, for enrolment started in 2012, will not be affected.
Ms Atkinson took that to mean that a post-graduate student who applied for a student allowance at the beginning of this year, 2012, for a course that continued into 2013, would not be affected.
Mr Joyce says that's not what he meant.
“If you are enrolled and you have access to a student allowance for a period that runs part way through 2012 and part way through 2013, you'll get to keep that across that period,” says Mr Joyce. “But if you are applying to enrol again in, say, a second year of a post-grad qual the beginning of next year, then you will not qualify.”
One politician believes what Mr Joyce said in the house was ambiguous.
“I think the way he gave that assurance back when these changes were announced in May did allow an impression to be created amongst students in this situation that they would not be affected, and that the minister and StudyLink have not done anything to correct that impression,” says Green MP Holly Walker.
Students say that's left them with two choices – take on more student debt or abandon their studies.
Regardless, Mr Joyce isn't backing down, even if some students are working towards qualifications that aim to address a skills shortage in this country.