Fund freeze hurts regional university students

Cootamundra Country Education Foundation branch secretary Anna Ingold. Photo: Declan Rurenga
Cootamundra Country Education Foundation branch secretary Anna Ingold. Photo: Declan Rurenga

A freeze on funding to universities could make it harder for regional students to access tertiary study.

The federal government will save $2.1 billion after introducing a cap on university funding in December. The cap puts limits on places offered to prospective students over the next two years.

The Country Education Foundation (CEF) has said it will make it harder for regional students who face greater challenges than metropolitan students.

Cootamundra’s CEF branch secretary Anna Ingold said regional students often had little choice but to move out of home in order to study after high school.

Moving out of home, and often hours away increases costs faced by students.

Miss Ingold studied agricultural science at Charles Sturt Unviersity (CSU) in Wagga.

“CSU is great but the course was there, if I wanted to do something other than ag science, I may have had to go elsewhere,” she said.

“Even if you move into campus accommodation, there’s a still a big up-front cost.”

Miss Ingold said five Cootamundra students had received scholarships for 2018 ranging from $1000 to $5000 to help them set-up for their degrees.

The funds aren’t extra spending money but cover textbooks, laptops and accommodation.

“Students aren’t clear on how many shifts stacking shelves or pulling beers are needed to be able to afford a move for university,” she said.

CEF’s CEO Wendy Cohen said there was no doubt individual students would struggle more to attend university.

Regional students had to overcome a participation gap just to attend university, so any changes that resulted in fewer course places and increased costs would make it tougher, Ms Cohen said.

“The government said it was committed to closing the gap but this takes a backwards step,” she said.

“Adding additional impediments for kids is just going to widen the gap.”

Ms Cohen said she was pleased the government didn’t axe the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program. It assists people at a disadvantage.


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