The Student's Guide to Everything

The Student's Guide to Everything: university student and graduate life from a New Zealand perspective

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Do you qualify for a NZ student allowance?

Are you in your final year of high school? Are you heading to university next year? You may qualify for the Student Allowance! (AKA, free money!)

What is it?

The Student Allowance is a weekly benefit paid to students aged 16 years and upwards, to support you while studying. You may have to supplement this income with part-time work, especially in the more expensive cities such as Wellington or Auckland. But at least you won't have to spend all your valuable study time working at that Fish'n'chip shop down the road, just so you can pay your rent.

Do I qualify?

Aged 18-23? (Some 16-17 year olds also qualify.) The allowance is based on several things: your parents' income (because it's assumed they'll help you out somewhat, true or not); whether you live at home; and whether you're married and/or have kids. Check out the WINZ website to find out.

24 or over? The allowance does not take parental income into account, but it does take your partner's income into account, and whether you have kids. Check out the WINZ website to find out.

If I'm an adult now, what do my parents have to do with it?

Yes, I know. It's unfair. You've moved out of home, you're an adult, and your parents' incomes are still taken into account!

If your parents live in separate households or if they're supporting more than one student, then the amount of income taken into consideration will be reduced.

If only one parent supports you, then that parent should complete the Single Parent Allowance application to have only their income taken into account. This application usually only works if you are estranged from the other parent. (Here's the new list of reasons considered "unacceptable".)

If your parent has a new partner, and you live with them both, then WINZ will take both of their incomes into account, and decline the Single Parent Allowance application. (Check the website, because sometimes they'll allow it if you've only lived with your parent's new partner a short while, and that person hasn't supported you in any way.)

If you're estranged from both your parents, and neither of them support you, you can apply for the Independent Circumstances Allowance so that their incomes are not taken into account. You still need to apply for the Student Allowance as well.

Free money! How do I get it?

Make sure you enrol now, since the WINZ centres get swamped in January and you'll avoid having no money for the first few weeks. I know it feels quite complicated, but just take your time and read though all of the information on WINZ's main website, or their student-oriented website Studylink to make sure you're getting the most allowance possible for your individual situation.

Returning students also need to re-enrol each year. So don't forget!

What if I don't qualify?

Luckily, Labour has recently announced plans to raise the parental income limits from 1 January 2009, and scrap the parental income requirements entirely in 2012. This effectively creates a universal student allowance! I think this is a fantastic idea, because it treats all students fairly regardless of parental income.

In the meantime, you can borrow up to $155.00 per week from your student loan. If you qualify for a reduced student allowance, you can borrow from your student loan to make up the difference.

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