The Union for Student Associations says changes to the student loan scheme discriminate against older people trying to gain extra skills and hurt part-time students.
Under changes in the 2011 Budget, part-time full-year students will no longer be able to borrow for course-related costs. From January 2013, students over the age of 55 will not be able to borrow for living costs.
Eligibility for loans will be restricted for students whose existing loan payments are overdue by more than $500 and are in default for longer than a year.
Union of Student Associations co-president David Do says the changes will make tertiary study too expensive for older people.
"It's making it harder for those over 55 to upskill and retrain and that's really important given the economy at the moment and the recession.
"We need to be allowing people to upskill and secure jobs, not slamming the door in their face."
David Do says the restrictions on part-time students will hurt almost 98,000 people, most of whom are Maori or Pacific people.