Shock horror – students forced home to work

TV3 reports Cost of living forces some Auckland students home for summer:

University students are supposed to be on holiday, but instead of taking a break, many are being forced to move home and find extra work to save money for the new academic year.

Supposed to be on holiday? Being forced to move home and find extra work?

Back in the late  1970s when my generation was supposedly getting a “free” education that was normal.

We finished exams in November, found jobs and worked until early to mid February when we returned to university. We didn’t feel entitled to three months holiday and we didn’t see it as being “forced” to work. It’s just what we did to ensure we had enough money to live on while we were studying because while we paid little in fees we still had rent, food, books and other expenses.

We also regarded it as part of our education. We learned new skills, gained an appreciation of what other people have to do for a living and motivation to study so we didn’t have to do those sorts of jobs for ever.

At least one of today’s students doesn’t understand that. Med student James Shand says:

“I’ve got friends in Dunedin who’re paying $100 a week, and we’re paying literally $60 a week more than that,” James says. “And that’s eating up our entire student loan, which they’ve got money to buy food, and travel expenses, and stuff.

The weekly difference sounds big but the annual one isn’t nearly as great. Almost all Dunedin flats are rented for 12 months. Most students come from out of town and go home or elsewhere to work for the summer but still have to keep paying rent while their flats are unoccupied. They can’t, as Auckland students can, give up their flats for three months.

“For us, we literally have to have jobs over summer just to try and sustain us throughout the year, whereas they can sort of get by without that.”

Student loans are supposed to help people while they’re studying. They are not supposed to allow them to stop taking responsibility for their own finances.

Money earned from holiday work can be used to reduce the amount students need to borrow.  Or, if they use the incentive to borrow the maximum which the interest-free loan provides, they can invest what they earn and use it to help repay the loan faster when they graduate.

Fortunately for the future of the country the attitude of the student quoted isn’t universal.

We spent last evening with students whose work ethic was obvious. They all had holiday jobs, accepted them as a normal part of student life and as something to add to their CVs to make them more employable when they are looking for work when they have completed their studies.

9 Responses to Shock horror – students forced home to work

  1. Deborah says:

    I worked in shops some years, helping with the Christmas rush, and then filling in for permanent staff taking leave, and in later years, I worked as an accounts clerk, doing creditors’ reconciliations, and basic audit work – nothing terribly thrilling. But it paid a wage, which I needed.

    In times of high unemployment it may be rather more difficult for students to find jobs. That was not the case when I was a student. Also, back in my day, there was a subsidy from the government for student wages, through what was (I think) the Student Job Scheme. I don’t think there’s any equivalent thing now. So I think that the holiday work environment right now is more difficult for students. Even so, the long university break is an opportunity to at least try to get paying work, not just take a three-month break.

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  2. gravedodger says:

    Classic entitleitus syndrome which is reaching epidemic proportions among the educated among us and rates are alarming among the younger citizens, who now on leaving school “need” a “gap” year. I presume that is to alleviate the immense stress they have endured at school.
    I have always considered it would be advisable for students on leaving high school/college to take a couple of years away from academia and go to work among the common folk who just do that every day as their way of life and perhaps a bit if the real world would be revealed to them, accumulate a bank balance and gain some appreciation as to where the means of survival actually comes from.
    In my youth, admittedly in the middle of last century it was not uncommon for a teacher, lecturer or even a professor to arrange a working “holiday” in some casual work with accommodation (batch standard) where their family got away from it all and the family finances were given a boost from Dad, Mum and even children filling a need for seasonal labour. The exposure to how the other 1/2 lived, the comradery, the extra money, good food (almost organic but we were unaware of that) and enjoying the simple pleasures were an economic and fulfilling way of “summer”.

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  3. bulaman says:

    With you on that! I watched with increasing amazement as this young adult (or arsehole for short) betrayed a stunning sense of “entitlement” as if he is “owed” a free ride. I was a public servant and bonded which got me an extra $500 per year (from fading memory) back in the 70/80’s. There are summer jobs but they are obviously “beneath” this guy.. Hopefully/maybe just an Auckland thing?

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  4. Tired Farmer says:

    Good thoughts to start 2011 HP, especially as even John Key says its going to be a tight year financially.

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  5. Andrei says:

    When I went to University I worked in the holidays and at weekends.

    But my beautiful girl who is off to Australia in two weeks, and of whom I am incredibly proud paid her way through her education by working in the high needs unit of an old peoples home as a caregiver while studying.

    Sometimes she’d be utterly exhausted with all she was doing – study and work.

    So I don’t think the whiners are necessarily typical – they are probably the next generation of the Labour Party elite though.

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  6. Fredinthegrass says:

    Proud to share our eldest grandson’s story.
    He earned enough money to take he and lady friend to Australia to see his father.
    They both started a summer course after Uni finished, and kept their part-time jobs. Took leave over the holidays, and is going back to work, and the course next week. Most of his mates are doing similar things or have gone out to get work.
    And they only moan a little at having to sign up for the flat for 12 months.

    Hey, Gd…….In my youth, admittedly in the middle of last century……
    It does have a certain ring to which I identify!!

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  7. Rob Hosking says:

    @ Deborah: I’m pretty sure that student wage subsidy got canned in 1985 or thereabouts.

    Yeah I worked through the holidays (and during the terms) when I was at Uni. This was late ’80s/early ’90s and unemployment was higher than it is now. I took some pretty shitty jobs (cleaning was the worst) but some good ones (gardening).

    It was definitely part of my education. I think I learnt more listening to people in the tearooms at places I worked (and that was the first lesson: shut up and LISTEN) than I learned at Uni.

    In defence of ‘the youth of today’ – we’ve used several students, hired through Student Job Search, to help with our autistic daughter.

    Although we’ve had the odd lemon, we’ve had several (one I’m writing a reference for today) whose work ethic, initiative, and general outlook on life has been outstanding.

    It’s not easy work and I freely admit I would not have had the maturity at the same age to cope with the job.

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  8. adam2314 says:

    I well remember Students in the 60’s/70’s turning up for work..

    Out of their depth. Total wallies. Lacking common sense.. Very keen to earn a dollar.

    They usually came right, about the time they left..

    I suppose we learnt something from them also :-))

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  9. simfarmer says:

    How many degrees now have practical work requirements ? B.Ag Sc had 39 weeks (which is basically all of your non-study time). Most Ag students had no problem at all getting well paid summer work. I used to milk cows before going to lectures for a bit of piss money – I can’t believe these people think they can get away with not working while studying !

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