Wagga educators and students say they are not surprised that a recent report finds regional students are less likely to attend university compared to city peers.
A new report by the Productivity Commission, the federal government's advisory body on economic policy, has identified disadvantaged students needing greater support during university.
The 'demand driven university system', in place between 2010 and 2017, was intended to increase domestic student numbers and give under-represented groups greater access.
While the share of 22-year olds who had attended university rose from 53 per cent in 2010 to 60 per cent in 2016, overall participation rates of people from regional backgrounds did not improve.
Erin Callaghan, a former Wagga high school teacher who has recently moved to Griffith to open a Country Universities Centre, said regional students have to overcome multiple barriers.
"I think statistics show that there is a high level of first year attrition especially in first year distance education," she said.
"There are a lot of barriers to studying tertiary in rural and remote and it's not only financial and geographical barriers, but a lot are first in their family to complete tertiary education.
"Many of them also have a family, children and even work full-time; it's quite compounding in regional and remote areas and it's not just one or two barriers for education, there's usually multiple."
The CUC will offer two study hubs in Griffith and Leeton as well as academic and administrative support to ensure there are no constraints that limit regional students' ability to engage in tertiary education.
This is part of the Regional Education Package to make higher education more accessible for regional, rural and remote Australians.
Australian Department of Education data revealed domestic regional student first half year enrolments fell by 1.2 per cent in 2018.
"While more than 45 per cent of people aged 25-34 in major cities have a bachelor degree or higher qualification, that number drops to 21 per cent in regional Australia," a spokesperson said.
Charles Sturt University's acting director engagement across all campuses Kath Attree said the report clearly shows there is a need to provide greater support to students in regional areas.
"These students don't have the same access and cultural options, like museums and galleries or environments that are offered to city students," she said.
"CSU has a large number of students who are first in the family to study, from regional areas and also lower socio-economic students.
"We have, for many years, been conscious of the fact that many might not be literate, don't understand how to navigate the online space and we emphasis that and when they enrol with us we offer a range of support services to bridge the gap."
However, 21-year-old Daniel Busch moved from Wagga to Newcastle to study a pathway university course into psychology and said he felt overwhelmed with the support.
"I left school in year 11 and went to Newcastle University, which allowed me to do a foundation course for psychology but it was nothing like I thought it would be," he said.
"If anything, there was too much help and it was the opposite of independence which I hated.
"I liked learning, but I found there was too much administration and they over prepared you; it was just a lack of caring for me rather than struggling because of cultural differences."
Mr Busch said his HECS debt and knowing that psychology required a lot of work and years of study were also reasons which influenced his decision to drop out.
The PC report suggested these two factors as reasons why many regional students are dropping out and more support is needed in these areas to help these students succeed.
Post-graduate student at CSU Bathurst Erin Archer said it doesn't surprise her that there is a lower percentage of regional people studying, but argued university is not for everyone.
"University was discussed at school and also how opportunities arise if you have extra study under your belt," she said.
"I think it's really important for regional students to go to university, but I don't think it should be pushed on everyone as university isn't for everyone.
"It's your own choice and I think especially in regional areas, there's always other choices."
Ms Archer studied her bachelor's degree in Wagga and then moved campuses for post-graduate study.
"Going to university for me was mostly a family thing as mum went to uni and she was a big advocate for me to continue studying," she said.
"It doesn't surprise me that less regional students are going to university but I think in the city there is more opportunities.
"In regional areas, I think there's also a bit more focus on trades and there could be more of an incentive to go to TAFE instead of university and I think that's pushed in regional areas."
The PC report identified that university will not be the best option for many and there are viable alternatives in employment and vocational education and training.
This was the case for Joseph Cheney, 20, who chose to study IT at TAFE NSW over university.
"Both were an option and my IT teacher said I could gain a qualification from TAFE or university, so I chose TAFE because it's more hands-on," he said.
"I like practical learning as opposed to lectures and theory.
"I don't regret my decision, it's been a good choice for me."