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Living Costs Increase Not Enough, Says NZUSA Upon Student Wellbeing Inquiry

An inquiry into student wellbeing, led by the Green Party and NZUSA, will look into housing and rising living costs.

AUTSA President Sara Youssef welcomes the announcement of a Green Party and NZUSA inquiry into student wellbeing, saying it was important for them to put their name to this initiative.

“Students are vulnerable. Everybody around me is vulnerable. So I think the fact that there is an inquiry is absolutely amazing.”Youssef says wellbeing is important to her. “When wellbeing is mentioned, it hits home.”She says there will always be a demand for wellbeing help, especially now post-Covid-19.“We’ve been disconnected for so long, and now we’re coming back to campus, we’re trying to bridge that connection.”

Green Party mental health spokesperson and Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick launched the inquiry in early April. She wants to use survey data to identify where students might need the most help.

Swarbrick says students are currently living in substandard and unhealthy housing while struggling to overcome rising living costs.

“This isn’t the pathway out of poverty it’s sold as; for many, it is literally working and studying poverty.”

Students saw an increase in student allowance and student living costs by $25 a week on April 1 this year. The government estimates this increase will ease the financial pressure for more than 100,000 students.

However, many say that is not enough.

NZUSA President Andrew Lessells says the government is completely disconnected from the lives of students if all they can do is offer them an extra $25 a week.

“These students have lost jobs because of Covid, are taking on crippling debt just to keep a roof over their heads.”AUTSA Wellbeing Officer Tanvi Narayan thinks the survey will help find what is missing in terms of financial wellbeing.

“As many of us are aware, some students have left studies to support families due to financial difficulties and some mature students have come back to increase their qualifications to get a better financial stability for future jobs.”

The Green Party and NZUSA will also be working alongside Te Mana Ākonga, Tauira Pasifika, and the National Disabled Students’ Association.

The presidents of those associations say the inquiry is needed.

Kyla Campbell-Kamariera, Te Mana Ākonga Tumuaki, says this inquiry will be a great opportunity to collect data that highlights the diverse realities of tauira Māori.

“To litigate student wellbeing experiences over and over again with no meaningful transformation is getting tiring and boring. We’re ready to see some change.”

National Disabled Students’ Association President Alice Mander wants disabled students to be part of the conversation.

“We know that disabled students face material hardship at greater rates than nondisabled students, and also face inequities and barriers in the tertiary education system itself. The support is simply not there for our students,” says Mander.


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