Students, parents, teachers and community members from across the Bendigo region have the opportunity to put forward their ideas on how the Commonwealth Government can better support local students to gain a university degree.
The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie, along with representatives from the departments of Education and Social Services, will host the Regional Higher Education Forum in Bendigo at the La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre Auditorium next Wednesday, 15 July 2015 at 1pm.
It will provide an opportunity for local students, parents, teachers and community members to discuss the barriers to accessing higher education for regional and remote students and how to overcome them.
It is the first of 15 forums to be held across the country, instigated by Senator McKenzie to identify new and innovative ideas to better support students from regional and remote communities.
The departments of Education and Social Services recently investigated the barriers to higher education faced by regional and remote students, producing a joint interim report.
The interim report found that regional and remote students face many barriers when accessing higher education, including additional costs, socioeconomic status, distance, school experiences, preparedness and aspiration.
“A postcode should not determine whether a young person can secure a university degree but sadly it does,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Young people from regional and remote communities make up 27 per cent of Australia’s population, yet they only represent 21 per cent of Australia’s university population – this is simply not good enough.
“Securing a university degree is important to our young people with graduates earning on average 75 per cent more over the life of their careers.
“It is also vitally important to the future of regional and remote communities because they are the doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, journalists, teachers, engineers and computer programmers of tomorrow.”
Senator McKenzie said the added cost burden was one of the biggest barriers to securing a university degree.
“Students who have to relocate to study face costs of between $15,000 and $20,000 a year before they have even purchased a book or paid for their tuition,” Senator McKenzie said.
“They are forced to pay between $250 and $400 a week to live away from home with relocation costs of between $3,000 and $6,000, not to mention trips and phone calls home.
“These significant cost burdens are not faced by city students who can remain at home while they study.
“While there are some support programmes available such as Youth Allowance and relocation grants, many families who earn above the threshold don’t qualify.
“For a local family with two or more students wanting to access higher education these extra costs are often crippling.”
Senator McKenzie encouraged students and their families, as well as principals, teachers, careers advisers and interested community members to attend the forum to share their story and ideas.
Their contribution will help shape a final report which will be presented to Minister for Education Christopher Pyne and Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison later this year.
“The recommendations in the final report will become a catalyst for change,” Senator McKenzie said.
To register your interest in attending the forum phone (03) 5441 4251 or email Senator.McKenzie@aph.gov.au.
Media contact: Ben Bulmer 0488 747 770 firstname.lastname@example.org