The Green Party is demanding the Government bring back allowances for postgraduate students before the election and says anything less won't satisfy its confidence-and-supply agreement with Labour.
But the Minister of Education is staying tight-lipped about whether postgrad students are getting anything in this year's Budget.
Students working towards postgraduate degrees have been unable to collect weekly allowances – which don't have to be paid back – since a rule change by the previous Government came into effect in 2013.
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It saw about 2500 students lose access to weekly payments that amounted to about an average $7200 a year per person and topped out at $240 a week.
Ministers at the time said the change would save about $8 million a year over the first four years.
The Greens and Labour both criticised the change, and campaigned on overturning the rule, but two years on, students are still waiting for a sign.
The New Zealand Union of Students' Associations has been meeting with MPs and petitioning Parliament. Its president, Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, said students are being put off and burnt out by having to work - sometimes multiple jobs - to cover their basic bills while studying full-time and racking up massive debts.
"The fact that we haven't yet seen it, and it's been two-and-a-half years since they were elected, is a sign they've broken that promise," she said.
"It's actually a tiny amount in comparison … but that debt is having really profound impacts on [students'] lives."
Lenihan-Ikin also points out the policy is a fragment of the price of other education policies, including the Government's $2.8 billion fees-free first-year scheme.
Victoria University of Wellington student Elizabeth Olsen is in the fourth year of her PhD studies and faces a student debt of about $100,000, despite having worked for five years prior and paid off some of the bill for her Masters.
"I use my loan for weekly living costs and that really ratchets up your loan to a terrifying degree," she said.
"It delays other major life decisions, milestones, like the decision to have children or buy a house – both of which are things I haven't done and will definitely delay just because of financial reasons."
Green Party tertiary education spokeswoman Chlöe Swarbrick says she believes the Greens-Labour agreement requires the return of the postgrad allowance as part of a promise to "make tertiary education more affordable and reduce the number of students living in financial hardship."
The deal doesn't specifically mention the allowances.
"I have made it clear to Minister Hipkins that we will not be satisfied with anything less," Swarbrick said.
"We are confident that the postgrad student allowance must be reinstated by the end of this political term."
That would mean the Government would have to include funding for the policy in this year's Budget.
But a spokeswoman for Education Minister Chris Hipkins said that meant the matter could not be discussed.
"The Minister is unable to comment," she said.
Hipkins has been quiet when asked about the policy over the past two years and has not explicitly stated if it is still on the books.
The Government points to other policies helping students, including fees-free, increasing student allowances for undergrad students by $50 a week and extending the length of time students can borrow.
A 2018 study into the change ending the postgrad student allowances by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research concluded it could not find evidence to prove the change had affected the number of people going onto further study, although it didn't rule out the possibility.