More university students are struggling to pay the bills despite extra financial assistance from the Government.

Figures collated by NZME show an increase in hardship funds given out and applications for financial help at three of New Zealand's biggest universities.

University of Auckland's student association gives out funds for students in need of financial help with food, accommodation, travel or medical bills. Applications are assessed by a committee and then given out accordingly.

In semester one, or the first half of the university year, hardship grants had a value of $13,991.


That compares to $16,000 handed out for the whole of 2017.

Luke Kibblewhite, the student association's welfare vice-president, said early indications look like semester two would be higher than the first.

He said in the first month $4850 of grants had already been given out.

"As the cost of living increases, the maximum amounts the committee is able to award to particular applicants will also need to increase.

"The impact of the regional Auckland fuel tax will likely be significant, as the cost of transport to and from university is frequently cited as a major expense for students."

Victoria University of Wellington's hardship grants had also increased – with 100 more grant applications compared to last year.

The student association's president Marlon Drake said it was down to the rising cost of living from rent, power and medical prices.

He said even things like dental costs were becoming a problem with a significant number of students needing help with that this year.


Drake said some students were working more than 20 hours a week on top of part time study to survive.

"That is not natural and not healthy for any young person. I honestly think if parents knew some of the struggles students were going through they would be quite shocked."

The situation is the same further south at the University of Otago with students accessing around 20 per cent more financial help services compared to 2017.

Sage Burke, Otago University student association student support manager, said rent was the major contributing factor.

Trade Me's property rental index for July showed the median rent in Dunedin shot up 8.4 per cent compared to last July, to reach a new record of $420 a week.

"That rent is generally the large portion of the student's income, after rent there's maybe around $50 left for the week" Burke said.

Extra help was introduced by the Government at the start of this year to help students, including additional accommodation benefit support for students living in areas that have high accommodation costs. The maximum rate increased by $20 a week to $60.

Student allowance and living cost loans also increased by $50 a week.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the Government was committed to addressing cost of living pressures in cities.

"We have heard the concerns of students and their families who have told us cost is a real barrier to taking on tertiary study and training."

But despite this extra cash, Burke said it does not seem to have made a difference.

"People are not able to build up any contingency or savings so when they do get an unexpected high power bill or doctor's appointment they don't have the funds to cover it."

The universities all said the Government was taking steps in the right direction to help struggling students, but the problem wasn't solved.

"Looking at something like a universal student allowance that every student has access to, so they can have some money and even have a little bit of a life. That would be helpful for students," Drake said.