Liz Bishara, Director Student Hub, Student Services and Administration, Auckland University of Technology
According to a 2018 article in The New Zealand Herald, “more university students are struggling to pay the bills despite extra assistance from the Government.” (McKay, 2018, para. 1). Money issues and financial hardship are two of the most common issues or problems that many students face while studying at university, whether they’re living at home or living in student accommodation. Students experiencing money worries can have difficulties in concentrating on their day-to-day activities and making the most of their time at university.
At Auckland University of Technology (AUT), we know first-hand that specialist advice and support is fundamental to a truly excellent student experience. One of the ways AUT provides this type of advice and support is by ensuring students are aware of the financial assistance available and how to access it, because for many, worrying about finances can impede on their academic performance.
The Student Services and Administration (SSA) division at AUT is a collection of professional and accredited practitioner teams, offering support and advice on: admissions, graduation, fees, finances, medical, counselling and mental health, accommodation, international student queries, learning disabilities, changes of circumstances, faith and chaplaincy, and Rainbow identity. The specialist services we provide underpin the academic experience by enabling students to access, focus on, and remain on their programmes. The SSA division is committed to working in partnership with our University colleagues to produce great graduates.
We know that many people enter tertiary education to increase their job prospects, so they can provide a better life for them and their whānau. As a leading tertiary education provider, AUT has removed the barriers that are stopping students achieving their full potential.
In 2018, AUT launched the new student financial support service to improve students’ access to financial support when in hardship, by providing food and transport vouchers, and assistance with childcare payments along with any outstanding bills. Last year, we supported 682 students in short-term financial hardship.
AUT’s financial hardship assistance approach also includes funding activities, which assist in removing barriers to student success, such as disability assessments and victim support (domestic violence victims).
AUT also liaises with external companies who provide Educational Psychologist assessments for learning needs to assist with diagnosis of impairments and possible support needs, particularly for those students who have never formally undertaken such an assessment. Some of these organisations now deliver the service on our campuses, so students can easily attend appointments at convenient times.
In addition, we can provide an ‘accommodation starter kit’ for students from the Accommodation Support area.
AUT’s Student Hubs give students access to a range of services and support to help them succeed. Student Hub Advisors are available at each of our campuses (City, North, and South) as well as via phone and email, to help students with their study or personal needs, and will either resolve their need on the spot, or put them in touch with the right person on campus. Students can either make an appointment with a Student Hub Advisor directly or they can be referred to by their lecturer or an AUT staff member.
When a student meets with an Advisor, they will then undertake a needs assessment with the student, asking open-ended questions and looking out for the following signs:
If the student meets some or all the above criteria, the Advisor can allocate a level of financial support on the spot or alternatively they can undertake a complete financial assessment with the student.
However, it’s not always about providing financial relief. Often in these sessions, we can uncover that a student isn’t taking full advantage of their entitlements or have their accounts structured in the most effective way, such as the best package from their internet provider or being charged lower fees on their bank accounts.
This end-to-end assessment allows the student to concentrate on their studies.
Reference: McKay, E. (2018). Increase in struggling university students accessing hardship funds.