AUT statement on student accommodation

08 May, 2020
 
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AUT understands that COVID-19 has created challenges for everyone and our focus has been on providing support so students have equitable access to completing their studies.

The main point in the current student accommodation issue is around whether students had to leave or whether they preferred to leave during the lockdown. Then, if they chose to leave, did they want to come back to the rooms they had, or did they intend to leave permanently?

At AUT, student accommodation has been kept open during the lockdown. Very few students were in situations that meant they had to leave, and around one third of student residents remained while the others chose to leave - temporarily.

AUT does not own either of the accommodation facilities we have.  We do not make a profit from offering on-campus accommodation. Whether students are there or not we have ongoing costs including our regular rent payments to the owners – who so far have rejected any request for consideration in recognition of the impact of COVID-19.

What we have done is provide students who chose to leave during the lockdown with a credit based on the utilities they would have used had they been in their rooms, and offered the opportunity for them to cancel their contract without financial loss if they didn’t want to return. At this point only 59 have done that.

The majority of students who’ve left want to keep their rooms to come back to. On top of the credit they have, further financial support is available for any who might need it from our student Hardship Fund, which we have increased as well as making it easier to access help.

For those students who have remained in the student accommodation we have increased services including three free meals a day during Alert Level 4 – normally there is no food service as the hostels are apartment style and self-catered.

To repay the full cost of the temporarily and voluntarily vacated rooms in both our hostels would cost almost a million dollars – so far. This would have to be taken from other areas at a time of significantly diminished revenues and higher costs as the university has gone totally online with more than 900 papers, all previously taught on campus.

AUT letter to students in accommodation

Dear Residents

You may have heard today the announcement by Government outlining guidelines for Covid 19 Alert Level 2.  While this news is very promising we now wait for the formal announcement next week when plans to activate Level 2 will be confirmed.  In the next while, the teams at AUT Student Accommodation will commence planning for residents returning to the facilities.  We will update you as these plans are finalised and look forward to seeing you back. Please remember, our usual support services are operating and can be accessed including student medical centre, counselling, learning support, employability, student financial assistance and the student hub.  If you need any help, please contact studenthub@aut.ac.nz or freephone 0800 288 864

During the past week the topic of student accommodation has been in the media. We thought it important that you as residents receive detail of the current situation for AUT Student Accommodation.

The main point in the current student accommodation issue is around whether students had to leave or whether they preferred to leave during the lockdown. Then, if they chose to leave, did they want to come back to the rooms they had, or did they intend to leave permanently?

At AUT, student accommodation has been kept open during the lockdown.  Very few students were in situations that meant they had to leave, and around one third of student residents remained while the others chose to leave - temporarily.   AUT does not own either of the accommodation facilities we have.  We do not make a profit from offering on-campus accommodation.  Whether students are there or not we have ongoing costs including our regular rent payments to the owners – who so far have rejected any request for consideration in recognition of the impact of COVID-19.

What we have done is provide students who chose to leave during the lockdown with a rebate based on the utilities they would have used had they been in their rooms, and offered the opportunity for them to cancel their contract without financial loss if they didn’t want to return. At this point only 59 have done that.

The majority of students who’ve left want to keep their rooms to come back to, their belongings remain in their rooms. On top of the rebate they have, further financial support is available for any who might need it from our student Hardship Fund, which we have increased as well as making it easier to access help.  The fund is not a loan and nor is it means tested on parental income.

For those students who have remained in the student accommodation we have increased services including welfare checks and three free meals a day during Alert Level 4 – normally there is no food service as the hostels are apartment style and self-catered.

To repay the full cost of the temporarily and voluntarily vacated rooms in both our hostels would cost almost a million dollars – so far.   This would have to be taken from other areas at a time of significantly diminished revenues and higher costs as the university has gone totally online with more than 900 papers, all previously taught on campus.

At AUT we are striving to deliver a quality online learning experience and ensure that all our students can complete their qualification in the year they planned to.  We are also providing additional support to our students wherever possible and trying to balance being compassionate with being pragmatic about the future of the university and sensible about what we can reasonably do.

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