Well-articulated rant #3

20 Jun

This week, ElevenHoursAhead will be publishing the thoughts of current and former students on the real value of the student allowance system. Here is today’s personal reflection from Raven Cretney:

“I am the first person in my family to go to a university, it was an incredibly big deal to my Mother who wasn’t able to get a degree. I now wish to continue my post graduate studies as I would love to teach at a tertiary level. But I will not be able to continue my studies unless I, by some good grace of god, get a scholarship (btw the government has also cut $6.3million from their scholarship fund). I was raised in the generation of Ruthenasia, which appears to have not yet ended. For me the cuts to the student allowance are about justice with austerity. We all acknowledge and know we are in too much debt, as citizens and as nations. But our youngest and oldest generations are unfairly paying for the baby boomer generation to continue their reign of privilege, they have had free education, near free health care and they are now beginning to collect non-means tested superannuation. The austerity needs to be fairly shared, not placed on us as students and on our oldest citizens in the form of health care cost hikes and increased power bills. It is simply not how a fair society operates. We want our situation to be acknowledged and for us not to be subject to austerity measures over and above what others are facing simply because we are guilty of being young.”

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2 Responses to “Well-articulated rant #3”

  1. D Hall June 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    I’ve read the first three rants. There is a point about where costs and tax cuts etc are loaded generationally but there is more to say. The massification of tertiary education means that more money is spent over a much larger number of people. There has yet to be any discussion about how fair it is to shift some people from Allowances to Loans (there is a gap in the amount that can be borrowed which is a policy failure). There is yet to be any discussion about people worse off. For example on average people accessing tertiary education are from better off families so on average tertiary education represents a shift of resources form the poor to the better off. If the rants are intended as a personal catharsis through writing, then good. If they are intended to lead to some change then there needs to be more context and solutions. Btw, I benefited from an Allowance exemption as a post-grad with no chance of getting a scholarship so I’m in the camp that sees the policy as a bit thick.

    • elevenhoursahead June 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

      Hi D Hall,

      Thanks so much for your comment. You make a good point – when I was writing my ‘rant’ (#1) I was conscious of the fact that I was not commenting on impacts these changes are going to have on those coming from low- income families, or really providing any suggested solutions. Certainly I think this is something that should be talked about more, with more analysis and suggested changes (perhaps you could write for us!).

      For what its worth I have taken part in a couple of discussions where we have talked about the impacts this will have on Refugee Background Students (RBS). Already the Refugee Study Grants were cut in 2010 – severely impacting on the number of RBS who have gone into tertiary studies. For RBS students, taking on a student loan is a much bigger deal than for other students. This is for many reasons; one being that taking on a loan is a terrifying prospect for people who literally arrived with little more than the clothing on their back. Furthermore, often RBS are also working to support their extended family – as their parents and grandparents have had difficulty transitioning into stable, ongoing work because of difficulties picking up English language. For the government to naively (I think) tell these students that they should take on huge debt (when potentially they and their families have very little source of income for perhaps many years and certainly don’t have many assets to fall back on) shows a complete lack of compassion and an ignorance of the many barriers to equitable tertiary education Refugee Background communities face. If New Zealand is going to accept refugees, then we should also be taking on the responsibility to include them into New Zealand communities for the duration of their lives – not just 6-12 months on arrival.

      Finally, the need to take foundation courses to learn academic English also will be affected by these student allowance changes. Because many of these students have missed huge chunks of education while in refugee camps, foundation courses are vital to RBS success at university. Unfortunately for these students this means gaining a university degree takes, on average, longer than other students. This is also compounded by time RBS often have to give to responsibilities with their families (that the average New Zealand middle class student could hardly dream of).

      I believe the changes to the student allowance will have a huge impact on these students. In talking to RBS last year, I heard how many dream of becoming doctors, pharmacists and lawyers – all more than three-year degrees. That the government are telling these students that they are not worth the investment is a very unwelcome way to treat valuable New Zealand citizens.

      If you want to read more about the challenges RBS face check out this report: http://www.tesolanz.org.nz/Site/Publications/Reports.aspx

      Kiri

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