Chancellor points out Budget disadvantages for regional students

Published 19 May 2009

rtorbayThe Chancellor of the University of New England, Richard Torbay, says it is baffling that a Federal Government undertaking an “education revolution” should introduce measures that make it even harder for country university students to survive financially at university.

He said the new deal announced in the Federal Budget last week would hit regional students hardest by placing new limits on their access to youth start allowance.

“While the measures might have been aimed at metropolitan students who stay at home while they are at university, they are not appropriate for country students who have to relocate to study,” Dr Torbay said.

“Regional students will be disadvantaged through the new criteria,” he continued. “The Federal Government should examine the impact of these new provisions on country students with some urgency and change the ground rules to make them fairer.”

He said that, under the new arrangements, students who had worked full-time for a minimum of 30 hours a week on average for at least 18 months in a two-year period since leaving school would be considered independent and eligible for youth start allowance. Students who had undertaken part-time work or earned more than $19, 532 over 18 months would not.

“This doubles the hours students must work to prove their independence,” he said. “Without the allowance it makes it very difficult for them to pay accommodation and living costs and still find adequate time for their studies.”

The Chancellor (pictured here) said he was also concerned for prospective mature-age students who worked hard for the eighteen months prior to going to university, with the understanding that a certain earning level would grant them support from the government.

“Now to be told the goalposts have been shifted for eligibility to study allowances, it’s reasonable for them to be feeling cheated,” he said. “Another issue that needs re-examining is the family income cap. The Bradley Review clearly recommended the Federal Government make access to a University education easier for students from a low socio-economic background.

“It’s difficult to grasp the thinking behind capping the family income level to qualify for this support at $80,000. A family on $80,000 isn’t a family on Easy Street – by anyone’s rationale.”