Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology chief executive Dr Leon Fourie says the tertiary institute welcomes any additional assistance for students, following Labour's election promise of a $50 a week increase to student allowances.
Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern says her party also intends to offer one year of free tertiary education if elected to government, starting from 2018.
“Students have told us the priority needs to be living costs. Just getting by week-to-week has become a significant barrier to many people continuing to study,” she says.
“Right now a typical student receives an allowance of around $170, but many tell me that's not enough to even cover their rent.
“Labour will therefore boost living cost assistance for students by $50 a week from the start of 2018.
“I'm keen to remove tertiary fees as quickly as possible, so I have brought forward by one year our three years' free policy. From the beginning of 2018, everyone starting tertiary education for the first time will get one year full-time study fees free. That will be extended to two years free in 2021 and three years free in 2024. If conditions allow, we will accelerate this policy further.”
Leon says Toi Ohomai offers a range of scholarships for students from all walks of life to make study accessible.
“We work closely with government agencies to assist where we can to support fees-free training through the Youth Guarantee fund and Maori Pacifica Trade Training, to name two.
“Access to education is key to enabling families to break the poverty cycle and to growing our region. We support all parties who are working to provide increased opportunities for students.”
Head of Student Support Dr Logan Bannister notes Toi Ohomai has seen an increase of students in hardship.
“When the student contacts our support services, they are often after support in the form of food and/or transport costs. We provide support in a few ways. We partner with Food Rescue, local food banks, we provide preloaded bus cards and also have free budgeting support on site for all students to access.”
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges calls the policy a ‘big-spending' promise, which ‘proves' the Labour Party are still ‘all about taxing people more and spending a lot more'.
“National increases the amounts available for student allowances and student loans by the cost of living every year, and will increase the accommodation benefit by $20 a week on April 1 next year as part of our Family Incomes Package.
“Taxpayers already meet about 80 per cent of the cost of tertiary education. University graduates on average earn a big premium over their lifetime compared to those who don't attend university. It is only fair that they make a contribution to their training.”
He adds it's important to remember those who go into the workforce without attending university are subsidising the university education of those who do go.
“It is unfair to tax plumbers more so we can train more lawyers.”
Jacinda says the policy is funded out of $6 billion allocated to Education in Labour's fiscal plan, and will be available not just to university students, but those in any post-secondary school qualification, including industry training and apprenticeships.