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To: Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and Minister of Finance Grant Robertson

Universal Education Income / Te Rourou Matanui-a-Wānanga

In response to COVID-19, the Government should implement a Universal Education Income / Te Rourou Matanui-a-Wānanga.

A weekly payment available to all domestic students (part time and full time) would enable students to continue studying during the COVID-19 crisis. It would enable education and training to be a viable option for New Zealanders in the reset of our economy, post COVID-19.

A Universal Education Income / Te Rourou Matanui-a-Wānanga is the only solution to the issues that students are facing in light of COVID-19.

Why is this important?


Right now, tertiary students are in poverty.

The poverty that students experience is a result of years of successive governments eroding the financial support that tertiary students have access to.

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the economic vulnerability that students face. Students have lost the part time jobs that provided essential weekly income to cover weekly expenses like rent, power and food. Many of the jobs that students in the gig economy, tourism and hospitality disappeared overnight, too early for them to be rehired by their employer to qualify for the Wage Subsidy.

The Tertiary Support Package announced by the Government on 14 April 2020 fails to address this poverty. Increasing the amount of course related costs for domestic full-time students from $1,000 to $2,000, only increases student debt, and fails to provide relief in the areas of hardship that students face, simply because this money is not able to be spent on accommodation or food costs. It is also unable to be accessed by part-time students, many of whom relied on employment, they now don’t have, to make ends meet.

One student says: “...I don’t know what to do, I’m barely managing to pay my rent, I can’t pay power, I can’t afford nutritional food, I can’t even afford to buy warm clothes now that it’s getting colder. I don’t have much in the way of clothes as it is and most don’t fit me anymore. I spend more time in bed trying to keep warm because of lack of clothes and not being able to afford power.”


We have a student debt crisis in New Zealand.

Student debt in New Zealand continues to climb to unprecedented levels, surpassing $16 billion this year despite the student loan scheme being introduced in 1992. For students who borrow living costs on top of course fees, in order to survive while they study, effectively double their student loan every year.

The student debt crisis impacts the lives of prospective students, current students and graduates. It creates a significant barrier that deters many prospective students from accessing the opportunities post-secondary education provides, especially from lower socio-economic communities. Money should not determine one’s ability to further their education.

Research shows that student debt places harmful mental pressures on current students, affecting their wellbeing, academic performance and political participation.

Upon completing their tertiary studies, research highlights that graduates experience the full weight of their crippling student debt when 12.5% of the income is deducted each week, and their ability to start a family, buy their first home or travel overseas is greatly restricted for many years after graduation.

Students are being buring in debt before they even get started. Students should not be forced to take on a debt sentence to access education that will benefit communities across Aotearoa.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that “education will be key to our economic recovery”.

We agree.

However, the week-to-week cost of being a tertiary student is a barrier for many people wanting to begin studying for the first time or re-train, especially given that many people have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19. This is especially the case for people with dependents, or people who are already vulnerable in our society.

Donna, a full-time nursing student and solo mother is one of these students who is just scraping by.
In a few years, Donna should be a qualified nurse, saving New Zealanders lives and contributing to New Zealand’s economy. She won’t achieve her dreams without additional government support.

For education to be universally accessible, we must have a universally accessible system of support.

New Zealand Union of Students' Associations, Te Mana Ākonga and Tauira Pasifika


In response to the hardship that tertiary students in Canada have experienced from COVID-19, the Canadian Government has implemented an equivalent Student Benefit of $1,250 per month for eligible students and $1,750 for students with dependents or disabilities.

The tertiary education policy of New Zealand First and the Green Party both include a universal student allowance, which is the equivalent of Universal Education Income / Te Rourou Matanui-a-Wānanga.


‘Why increasing student debt is not a support package’

Student Benefit in Canada

Tertiary Support Package announced by the Government

NZUSA Income and Expenditure Report 2017

NZUSA Kei Te pai? Report 2018

Student Loan Scheme Annual Report 2019

Green Party Tertiary Education Policy

New Zealand First Tertiary Education Policy

‘Crushing student debt is putting students off political action’

Student Debt and Political Participation by Sylvia Nissen

Photo: Trinity Thompson-Browne (@trin_tb)


2020-05-23 18:03:00 +1200

5,000 signatures reached

2020-04-30 14:35:33 +1200

1,000 signatures reached

2020-04-30 12:15:01 +1200

500 signatures reached

2020-04-30 10:29:58 +1200

100 signatures reached

2020-04-30 10:13:16 +1200

50 signatures reached

2020-04-30 10:03:43 +1200

25 signatures reached

2020-04-30 09:55:44 +1200

10 signatures reached