The Rudd government continues the Howard government’s policy of making it ever more difficult for university students without rich parents to afford tertiary education:
It costs an estimated $20,000 to live away from home in first year, and government support is now uncertain.
The federal government wants to make it harder for students to qualify for the independent youth allowance, and is instead planning to offer poorer and regional students new scholarships worth up to $4000.
However, legislation for student support funding has stalled in the Senate, leaving students like Mr Sandiford with a gaping hole in their budgets.
We have a system that says that a student who receives nothing from their parents and lives independently is not “independent” unless they’ve earned almost $20,000 in an 18 month period, or has been married, or has worked full-time for 18 months… the test isn’t the straightforward “do you receive support from anyone else?”, it’s a collection of hoops devised on the basis of nothing more than ruling out as many young Australians as possible.
The upshot of which is a generation of students living in absolute poverty. Or being effectively prevented from going to University at all.
Centrelink rules should be about fairness. Of course students who are independent of their parents should receive support not available to students who are assisted by their parents – but that should be the test. Not this profoundly unjust drivel in which poor students are forced to defer for several years and work unqualified jobs at miserable pay in order to qualify for assistance while they’re studying – those two years that they could be contributing to the community as qualified professionals are squandered trying to jump through ridiculous government hoops.
This isn’t the only unjust Centrelink rule, and I suppose – after Keating originally raised the independence age to 25 back in the 1990s – it’s not a big surprise to find an ALP government screwing over the poorest students, but it’s still a sad reminder that in terms of how we treat the poor, it doesn’t matter which major party is in power – it only gets worse.