Disadvantaged rural and regional students will be amongst the hardest hit by the Federal Government’s proposed higher education funding cuts according to the Country Education Foundation of Australia (CEFA).
CEFA Chief Executive Officer, Sarah Taylor, said the cuts would hurt rural and regional students and communities by reducing their access to life-changing higher education opportunities.
“Students in rural and regional Australia already face huge obstacles accessing university and these cuts will make it even harder,” Ms Taylor said.
Rural school-leavers have a fifty percent lower chance of getting to university than city students. Twelve percent of adults in regional communities have a degree compared with 27 percent of adults in capital cities.
Ms Taylor said university access and equity programs to address the low participation rates of rural and regional students could be jeopardised by the cuts.
“The ink isn’t dry and already universities are talking about scaling back the services they provide to assist disadvantaged students, which include students from rural and remote areas,” she said.
CEFA is a not-for-profit organisation that relies on donations and community fundraising to provide grants for rural students, to assist them with study and relocation expenses. Annual grants range from $500-$3500.
Ms Taylor said CEFA had 22 university partners, which provided additional funding to disadvantaged rural students, including dollar for dollar grants and textbook vouchers.
“If these funds were cut, many of our students would simply struggle to remain in university.
“With expenses of up to $15,000pa just to live away from home, many of them already work one, two or three part time jobs to make ends meet; the co-funding they receive from our university partners is critical to their financial survival.
Ms Taylor said the proposal to convert scholarships to loans would also deter country students, who faced significant relocation expenses when they left home to go to university.
“Bright rural students could miss out on university and a whole range of employment opportunities. That would be a loss to them personally and to our rural communities.