The Unfair Financial Status of our Tertiary Students

Friday, July 26, 2013

Over the last two generations, Australians have taken great pride, in bettering themselves through additional education – in particular, Tertiary studies through Universities or TAFE Colleges. 

For many, this dream was passed onto their children. Some of our grandparents left school at the age of 13 or younger and some of our parents left at 15 and now. Today, the average age is 18. However, many students these days, will go onto higher education; following their dreams and ambitions of a profession that will support them and provide for their future families, lives that are financially comfortable and therefore happy. 

Our political parties are continually saying we need to become a smarter country and better educated, if we are to compete on the world stage. Taxpayers, via the Government, do support our students by way of HECS fees; a repayment scheme, whereby, once a student finishes his or her University or TAFE degree and is gainfully employed and earning over a certain income, they then repay the Government their HECS fees.

This is of great assistance to students, who are relieved of the burden of having to pay upfront, for this large fee. Students may also apply for a Youth Allowance from the Government. The amount received, is conditional and based upon whether a student is single and living independently or single and living at home; dependent on their parents. An Assets’ based test and an Income based test, for both parents and student, is a requirement in the assessment for this Allowance. Some students find that they are ineligible; because they are living at home with parents whose income and assets are above the threshold. Yet they still have to pay upfront and ongoing fees. These include subject fees each semester in the order of $33.10 per subject; for a maximum 4 subjects, (depending on their subject choice), student administration fees, text books and equipment and/or materials for subjects, uniform fees, travel expenses to and from campus and printing costs. Most students seek some form of part time employment to pay for these costs and for their general living expenses. Those students living away from home, have additional expenses and struggle to pay for rents, food, bills (electricity, medical), and clothe themselves.

If you are living independently, the combined parental income and assets are not generally taken into consideration. However, if you are a student from a regional or remote area applying for Youth Allowance under the earnings or part-time work independence criteria, the parental income is taken into account. In these circumstances, parental income must be under $150,000.

If you are 22 years or over, you are automatically considered independent. 

At 18 years of age, our youth are obliged to vote, are legally able to drink alcohol and join the armed services, without being ‘tied to their parents’ apron strings or income’ as they are classified as adults. Then, how does it follow that a student attending Uni or TAFE, is ‘tied to’ or assessed on their parents’ and their own incomes? Is this appropriate? Is this fair and just?  

If we are to be seen as encouraging our youth to better themselves through further education; which ultimately, Australia will benefit from, then surely, we must do so with financial assistance that not only eases the stress of the financial and emotional burdens of juggling part time work AND studies, but also enables them to retain their dignity and independence.

We call on the Government to assist Tertiary students with an allowance equivalent to the dole; based on the assessment of an individual’s assets and income - regardless of whether they are living at home - and non-inclusive of their parents’ income and assets.

This initiative will have the additional benefit of freeing up casual jobs; currently held by Tertiary students, and provide incomes for single parents and other youth looking for casual work.



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