BIG NEWS

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Past grades could affect future government assistance to students

The other day I was advised by letter of changes to student loans and allowances. Grades are going to affect eligibility to loans and allowances. But I was particularly surprised to see that grades from 2009 will count towards eligibility. Doesn’t affect me, of course, I passed everything well.

Had I failed half my courses in 2009, I could get a student loan or allowance in 2010. But perhaps not in 2011. And according to Tertiary Education minister Steven Joyce, this new policy of passing more than half of your papers could affect 9000 students – at least the ones that can be enrolled.

If you are being slack and partying hard, and fail because of that, fair enough. But what happens when a student who studied in 2009 because he couldn’t get a job, mid year got a dream job and dropped out of studying. He passed his three semester one papers –getting straight As - but as he has not passed any of his five semester two papers, he will get no government assistance if he wants to continue his degree – even if he wants to study extramurally and do just two papers while working. What if he gets made redundant and wants to go back studying? Will he have to pay everything himself?

Also, a first year student who gets to grips with studying passes three out of eight papers in 2009 because he’s sick, has family and part time work commitments. Perhaps he took on more than he could chew and withdrew from one mid-year. Perhaps he is an extramural student who took a third year paper in his first year (as I did). While a pretty poor performance, it is a little different to a student who skylarks and doesn’t make the effort to pass his papers. But he is treated like one.

So, he takes fewer papers the following year. He doesn’t get a student allowance so he gets a job and takes four papers, passing three with A grades, and withdrawing late from one. Because he did not pass more than half his papers in his first year he may not be entitled to a student loan. His sin was not academic underachievement or slackness – probably more like overcommitment.

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