Students are Struggling
The crippling effects of the onerous financial pressures faced by Australian students have been revealed by the new report Paying their way: A survey of Australian Undergraduate University Student Finances, 2000, released by the AVCC last week.
"This report confirms what most of us in the sector well know; that the financial burdens involved with studying, without adequate income support measures, are heavy, and often overwhelming" said CAPA President, John Byron.
"While this study focuses on undergraduate students" he continued, "financial hardships of this magnitude continue to affect the living conditions of many, many postgraduate students."
This report finds that 7 in 10 students are employed during semester, that 1 in 10 frequently miss classes because of that work and that nearly 2 in 10 say that their employment affects their study 'a great deal.'
"As casual teachers, postgraduate students see examples of tired, stressed, and struggling undergraduate students every day in the classes we tutor," he explained.
"These students are hurting. They are under a lot of financial and time pressure and something needs to be done to help them. Income support arrangements need to be reassessed urgently.
"The report also highlights the added hardship of the low income thresholds at which the repayment of HECS begins. This low threshold means that some students - working to keep afloat - find themselves repaying their HECS debt while they are still trying to struggle through their studies.
"This is the HECS poverty trap," said Mr Byron, "and it leads to students abandoning university in despair - students whose only flaw is not coming from a well-off family. "
The low HECS repayment threshold also affects postgraduate students gravely.
"Many postgraduates are battling to support themselves while studying," said Mr Byron. "They are finding their difficult financial positions severely compounded by having to pay their HECS debts, although their earnings are well beneath the average wage.
"This is not just, nor is it smart. Punishing people for engaging in education is not the kind of policy an intelligent government, with the national interest at heart, would tolerate. "