Psychology students want student loan ceiling lifted

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George Guthrie and Irie Shimanski - Maori and general student representatives of the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychology - are lobbying the government to change the rules / criteria for issuing student loans.

ROBERT KITCHIN / Miscellaneous

George Guthrie and Irie Shimanski – Maori and general student representatives of the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychology – are lobbying the government to change the rules / criteria for issuing student loans.

The restriction on student loans creates a financial barrier for those looking to study to be clinical psychologists, and it disproportionately affects Maori students, five psychology trainees say.

Interns wrote to Education Secretary Chris Hipkins asking for the seven full-time student equivalents (EFTS) limit for student loans for clinical psychology students to be lifted.

There is an acute shortage of psychologists in New Zealand.it is estimated that more than 900 are needed. And only 5 percent of the psychologists in Aotearoa are Maori.

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According to trainee psychologist Irie Shimanski (Te Atyava, Ngai Tahu), 8.2% of the current group of trainee psychologists are Maori.

“Student loan limits create such a privileged profession and an unfair workforce, especially for those in financial hardship, especially Maori and Pacifica.”

This creates an “unfair barrier” for those who are financially unable to complete the study, he says, thus limiting the diversity and representation of Maori in the profession.

“It is recognized that financial constraints disproportionately affect Maori students in clinical psychology programs.”

Seven-EFTS equates to seven or eight years of study and is the limit for a student loan. Depending on the course, training as a clinical psychologist may take longer.

Szymanski, who grew up in Waitar, said he had a hard time financially.

“I’ve worked throughout my qualifications to stay financially afloat, which adds a lot of stress and time commitment outside of my studies. Fortunately, when you apply for an internship, you get paid. ”

Not being able to get a student loan means that students must receive financial aid from other sources such as loan sharks, or they take on extra work, or they need to take a few years off from their studies to save money so they can fund the rest.

“People who choose to apply to these programs tend to be in highly privileged positions, so with financial barriers we know this disproportionately affects Maori and Pacifica students.”

In the letter, the students noted that “the combination of a significant length of study and a lack of sufficient scholarships to support all students results in a heavy financial burden, which is the biggest problem reported for our students.”

Psychological trainee Taylor-Jane Cox said they were not asking for free money, but simply loans to enable students to pursue their degrees.

“It takes a long time to get this degree. This is a difficult degree with limited space. ”

Students in other medical courses, such as medicine, have guaranteed renewals, Cox said.

“We need the same treatment – guaranteed renewal so that when you apply to practice in clinical practice, you know you will get your student loan coverage for the entire duration.”

The duration of training for a clinical psychologist depends on the course.

“All programs are different, but you need at least a Bachelor of Honors degree before you can apply.”

Cox studied for eight years and received a student loan of $ 100,000.

“I have never had student scholarships, so I have always relied on a loan. It is different for everyone. ”

A minister spokesman said Hipkins had asked officials for advice on the proposal.

“Any changes to student loan limits must be made as part of the budgetary process.”

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