Services to students

Student Allowance

Costs covered by Student Allowances

The Student Allowance Scheme provides help with living costs for:

The scheme was introduced in 1989. Its aim is to prevent costs from being a barrier to full-time education for students from low-income and middle-income groups.

Eligibility and entitlement overviewTop

For current Student Allowance eligibility criteria, please go to

To receive a Student Allowance, a student must be:

In addition, students must be aged 18 or over. There are some exceptions for 16–17 year olds.

A student who is not studying full-time may be eligible for a Student Allowance. This occurs if their education provider supports their application to study less than full-time for any one of the following reasons:

A student usually has a lifetime limit of 200 weeks’ entitlement to a Student Allowance for tertiary study. A student may receive an extension to their 200-week limit if they:

There is a separate limit of 92 weeks’ entitlement to Student Allowance for study at secondary school13. A student may receive an extension to their 92-week secondary school limit if they need further weeks beyond the 92-week limit because of special circumstances.

Income and residency tests

To receive a Student Allowance, a student must be:

– have lived in New Zealand for at least two years
– have been entitled under the Immigration Act 2009 to reside indefinitely in New Zealand for at least two years

Income tests are also applied to Student Allowances. These tests consider the income of the student and either:

Before 1 January 2009, the age limit referred to in these income tests was 25 years, not 24 years.

Where there are circumstances that mean it would be inappropriate to expect the student to receive support from one or both parents, the income of the student’s parent(s) is not considered.

Students must meet an academic standard to continue to receive a Student Allowance

To secure continued access to a Student Allowance, a student must:

Payment ratesTop

A Student Allowance is available at different rates depending on the circumstances of the student.

Compared with students living away from home, the Student Allowance is paid at a reduced rate for students who are:

Table SA.1 shows the maximum net rate (at tax rate ‘M’) at which Student Allowances were paid between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012.

The maximum rates of Student Allowance, the parental income threshold15 and the personal and couple thresholds are adjusted from 1 April each year to reflect the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

table SA.1: Maximum payment rates for Student Allowance (effective from 1 April 2011)1

Type of Student Allowance Status Net amount per week1
Single – parentally income tested2,3 Away from home $170.80
At home $136.64
Single – not parentally income tested Away from home $204.96
At home $163.96
Independent circumstances allowance   $170.80
Student with dependent child(ren)   $293.58
Both students One eligible $204.96
Both eligible (each) $170.80
Student with dependent spouse or partner, no children   $341.60
Both students with dependent child(ren) One eligible $293.58
Both eligible (each) $170.80
Student with dependent spouse or partner and child(ren)   $341.60
Student with earning spouse or partner, with or without dependent child(ren) Away from home $110.31
At home $74.05


  1. The payment rates applicable during the 2011 academic year ended December. When this report entered production, this was the latest academic year for which complete information was available.
  2. Where the maximum amount of Student Allowance payable depends on the income of the student’s parent(s), the Student Allowance is abated by the student’s personal income in excess of the threshold in the same way as for other students.
  3. Allowances for students aged 16–24 were subject to the parental income test until 31 December 2008. From 1 January 2009, the age band where this test applied was reduced to test parents’ incomes for Student Allowances for students aged 16–23.

Numbers receiving a Student AllowanceTop

The number receiving a Student Allowance increased slightly between 2010 and 2011

This increase (see table SA.2) slowed from that apparent between 2008 and 2010. This pattern reflected a combination of:

A small majority of Student Allowance recipients were receiving parentally income tested assistance

Between 2009 and 2011, 55% of Student Allowance recipients were single and had their allowance parentally income tested (see table SA.2). Another 29% were single but did not have their allowance parentally income tested.

An increase in 2008 in the threshold for the parental income test for students under 25 years made more students under 25 eligible to receive an allowance.

table SA.2: Types of Student Allowance received

Type of Student Allowance received Students receiving a Student Allowance1
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Single – parentally income tested away from home 21,158 23,202 26,872 31,921 32,668
Single – parentally income tested at home 12,704 14,031 18,280 21,041 22,702
Single – not parentally income tested away from home 14,467 14,845 20,249 24,067 24,937
Single – not parentally income tested at home 1,987 2,110 3,456 3,404 3,669
Single – student in independent circumstances 2,121 2,071 2,205 2,078 2,109
Single – student with dependent child(ren) 1,572 1,583 1,868 2,243 2,425
Couple – both students2 1,622 1,279 1,512 1,647 1,395
Couple – student with dependent spouse or partner2 5,524 5,288 6,497 7,400 7,196
Couple – student with earning spouse or partner2 1,350 1,296 1,699 2,147 2,176
Total 62,505 65,705 82,638 95,948 99,277


  1. The number of students recorded as receiving a Student Allowance during years ended 31 December.
  2. Includes couples both with and without children.

Accommodation BenefitTop

The Accommodation Benefit is a contribution towards accommodation costs. It is part of the Student Allowance Scheme and is therefore separate and different from the Accommodation Supplement.

Students are generally entitled to an Accommodation Benefit only if they:

A student is not entitled to an Accommodation Benefit if they (or their partner) rent a property owned or managed by Housing New Zealand Corporation.

The exact rate of Accommodation Benefit available depends on the region where the student lives. The maximum payments of Accommodation Benefit available are:

11A ‘Recognised Long Programme’ is a programme recognised by the Tertiary Education Commission as normally taking more than 200 weeks to complete, such as a Bachelor of Engineering/Master of Engineering, for which a Student Allowance can be paid for up to 250 weeks. This exemption will be removed from 1 January 2013.
12This exemption will be removed from 1 January 2013.
13Before 1 January 2011, there was no limit to the number of weeks of entitlement for study at secondary school.
14Since 1 April 2007, clients in same-sex de facto relationships have been treated the same as married, civil union and opposite-sex de facto couples for Student Allowance purposes. 
15From 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2016, the parental income threshold will be maintained at the level resulting from the 2012 adjustment.