Student Income Support Reform Urgently Needed
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) welcomes the release of The Australian University Student Finances 2006 final report, and supports the call on the part of Universities Australia for practical changes to student income support.
"The report confirms that many postgraduate coursework students pursue their studies despite acutely difficult financial circumstances" CAPA President, Nigel Palmer said. "Findings in the report also demonstrate that lack of access to adequate income support for postgrads is a barrier to participation, and this is especially the case for Indigenous students." "Many Indigenous students are financially desperate" said CAPA Indigenous Officer, John Browne.
Katherine Barnsley, National Women's Officer and Chair of CAPA's Equity Committee, reinforced the equity implications of the final report: "The findings show that women postgrads are less likely to be financially independent. They have fewer savings, a greater fee debt, and will enter a workforce where they still earn 15-20% less than the male wage. They are also more likely to rely on free or subsidised services provided by student associations. Women continue to be on the back foot."
"Until adequate income support is available across the board, and adequate student services are restored in the wake of the devastating effects of VSU, equity groups will continue to be marginalised in Australia" Katherine Barnsley said.
CAPA endorses the recommendations by Universities Australia for the removal of the assessable income component for all scholarships and bursaries, and for the reduction in the age of independence for Youth Allowance from 25 to 18 years.
In line with recommendations in its submission to the recent Senate inquiry into the 2007 Budget measures for students, CAPA further recommends that:
Access to income support be extended to all students studying at postgraduate level, regardless of the nature of the course in which they are enrolled.
The Australian Student Finances Survey 2006 Final Report is available from the Universities Australia website.