Pic source: aaet.com.au
Nationals Senator for Victoria, Bridget McKenzie, said she looks forward to working with the new ministers for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, and Social Services, Christian Porter, to overcome challenges regional students face in accessing a higher education.
Senator McKenzie, who is chair of the senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee, was instrumental in getting a series of public forums recently held across the country, hosted by local MPs and attended by representatives of the Interdepartmental Committee on Access to Higher Education for Regional and Remote Students.
“It was important to have representatives from the education and social services departments attend these regional forums to hear first-hand the challenges facing remote, rural and regional students,” she said.
“These included the hefty cost of relocating to study (between $15,000-$20,000 a year), distance, lack of affordable accommodation, and trouble accessing and the adequacy of student assistance.
“While the government's 2015-16 budget removed some impediments to accessing Youth Allowance which will make a difference, more needs to be done which was obvious at the regional forums.
“Desperate parents tapping into their retirement savings to support their child, students working up to four jobs to make ends meet (leaving little time to study), students opting to study close-by rather than at the institute that offers the best course, no public transport, and internet access were among the many issues raised not only at the forums but also through emails and social media.”
ABS figures (2011) show students from regional and remote areas account for just 21 per cent of domestic undergraduate higher education enrolments. These students also tend to have a lower year 12 completion rate than city students, often affecting aspiration.
Senator McKenzie said the committee is now considering this information and will complete a final report for the ministers in coming months.
She also congratulated Christopher Pyne in his new appointment as Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, as well as the new Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy, and Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker, who is now the Minister for Vocational Education and Skills.
“Innovation within our education and industry sectors is incredibly important in securing Australia's economic future, in delivering new skills, jobs and productivity gains,” she said.
“As a regional senator, this is also exciting within the agriculture sector through the adoption of transformative technology resulting in more advanced food and fibre production.
“Christopher Pyne will do an excellent job in driving one of the government's most important agendas. I look forward to working with the ministers on this exciting journey.”