The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie hosted the first Regional Higher Education Forum in Bendigo yesterday, providing local students, parents and teachers the chance to discuss how the Commonwealth Government can better support regional students to access higher education.
The Bendigo forum was the first of 15 to be held across Australia, with the second to be held at Wangaratta’s Murdoch House on Thursday, 23 July 2015 at 10.30am.
Senator McKenzie encouraged locals from Wangaratta and the North East to come along and share their stories and ideas.
“I am really keen to hear Wangaratta’s ideas on how we can better support local students to access higher education,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The sad fact is that where a student lives has a direct impact on whether or not they can access higher education.
“While young people from regional communities account for 27 per cent of Australia’s population, they only make up 21 per cent of our university population.
“Students from regional communities face significant barriers to accessing higher education, including additional costs, socioeconomic status, distance, school experiences, preparedness and aspiration.
“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 which can be financially crippling for them and the families.”
Senator McKenzie said having Charles Sturt University and La Trobe University campuses in Wangaratta provided the opportunity for local students to stay at home while they study, however this was not practical for everyone with many local students leaving or preparing to leave to study in Melbourne, Sydney or Canberra.
“As local students begin preparing for Year 11 and 12 exams, these students and their families will be wondering how they are going to afford it,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Parents and teachers of younger students may also be wondering how they can encourage their children to consider a higher education pathway when they face so many additional barriers compared to city kids.
“While the Commonwealth does provide some support through Youth Allowance, Commonwealth Supported Places and relocation grants, there is much more we could do.
“I am are currently preparing a report to present to Minister for Education Christopher Pyne and Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison on what more can be done for local students and this forum will directly shape the contents of the report.
“The time is now for locals to stand up and have their say because this issue is too important to the future of our children and our local communities for locals not to participate.”
Senator McKenzie said the forum in Bendigo raised a number of issues that the visiting bureaucrats from Canberra hadn’t even considered.
“We heard that many students were deterred from accessing higher education due to a lack of affordable rental accommodation and meaningful financial support while they study.
“We also heard terrible stories of young people having to spend all of their savings before being eligible for Youth Allowance, which meant that when significant expenses such as bond for a rental property, a car service or purchasing books came along they didn’t have money available to meet these expenses.
“There was even a story about students not meeting Youth Allowance means testing requirements because of the value of their car, which meant the students faced a choice between having a car or receiving financial support – a complete absurdity.”
For more information on the Wangaratta Regional Higher Education Forum phone 03 5441 4251 or email Senator.McKenzie@aph.gov.au.
Regional Higher Education Forum dates and locations:
• Wangaratta, Victoria – Thursday, 23 July 2015
• Shepparton, Victoria – Friday, 24 July 2015
• Wagga Wagga, NSW – Wednesday, 29 July 2015
• Narrabri, NSW –Thursday, 30 July 2015
• Bunbury, WA – Monday, 3 August 2015
• Albany, WA – Tuesday, 4 August 2015
• Moora, WA – Thursday, 6 August 2015
• Coffs Harbour, NSW – Friday, 21 August 2015
• Townsville, Queensland –Monday, 24 August 2015
• Hamilton, Victoria – Tuesday, 25 August 2015
• Perth and Campbelltown, Tasmania – Wednesday, 26 August 2015
• Port Augusta, South Australia – Monday, 31 August 2015
• Rockhampton, Queensland – Thursday, 3 September 2015
• Port Macquarie, NSW – Friday, 4 September 2015
Media contact: Ben Bulmer 0488 747 770 firstname.lastname@example.org