December 23, 2010
Gippsland students and their families will still struggle to meet the costs of moving away from home to attend university in 2011, according to The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.
Mr Chester said the recently announced one-off $3000 grants to help regional students with financial difficulties will not address the true cost of living away from home to attend university for many families.
“While the grants will be of some assistance to those who are eligible, the level of support offered still falls well short of the true cost incurred by regional students living away from home to study and too many students will miss out,” Mr Chester said.
“Instead of tinkering around the edges, there should be complete overhaul of student income support to provide a more equitable system for rural and regional students.”
The $20 million Rural Tertiary Hardship Fund was setup in a deal between the Gillard Government and the Greens to get its flawed Youth Allowance legislation through the Senate. The legislation includes changes to the Independent Youth Allowance eligibility criteria which discriminate against thousands of students living in regional areas.
Mr Chester said the one-off $3000 grants provided to some students under the Rural Tertiary Hardship Fund were the equivalent of about $40 a fortnight over the course of a three year degree.
“While the one-off grants offer some relief, the real focus from the Labor Government should be on fixing the Independent Youth Allowance mess that the former Education Minister Julia Gillard helped to create in the first place,” Mr Chester said,
“Fixing the mess would provide improved assistance for all regional students, many of whom are on the verge of making a decision on whether to attend university in 2011 or take a ‘gap’ year.”
Meanwhile, witnesses at the Senate Inquiry into the Independent Youth Allowance have given evidence that the budgetary cost is no excuse to deny thousands of regional students financial assistance.
“Regional students are significantly disadvantaged by the cost of relocating to further their studies,” Mr Chester said.
“A Senate Inquiry has been told of the negative impacts being placed upon regional families due to the financial strain associated with moving away from home to study.
“In order to better assist regional students and their families, the Gillard Government must fix the Independent Youth Allowance mess as a first step towards a complete overhaul of the system.”
The Senate Inquiry report will be released on February 9, 2011. Further information can be found online at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/eet_ctte/socialsecurity/index.htm