Shock horror – students forced home to work

03/01/2011

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.


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