By Brittany Grimble

Would there be more students at university if higher education was free?

University students are already struggling financially, so how are we supposed to afford such high costs for study?

In Australia university is an expensive one and a degree can take anywhere from 2 years to 12 years to complete.

It can cost students up to $10,000 a year for tuition alone. Australian citizens can apply for HECS, a payment deferment program but it still doesn’t cover all the living expenses accrued while at university.

Of course university students in Australia, along with tuition fees also have heaps of other educational associated fees.

These can range from anything such as textbooks, parking fees, public transport costs to union fees. These aren’t covered by HECS.

Students do have the ability to apply for Youth Allowance or Austudy so they can be financially assisted while they are studying. However these support payments are means and assets tested.

However if you still live at home, you either have to be deemed independent or they base the payment amount on your parents wage.

To be deemed independent student have to have earned at least 75 per cent of Wage Level A the National Training Wage Schedule included in a modern award, in an 18-month period. Or you have to have worked part-time have worked part-time (at least 15 hours each week) for at least two years.

In order to be assessed as independent under such arrangements, you have to be a full-time student and must need to move away from home in order to study.

How do university students have time to work and study fulltime, where is the balance?

How can people who study full time, work enough to be deemed independent? Many students face the issue, “parents won’t give me anything, centrelink won’t give me anything!”

It seems that TAFE is the cheaper alternative and can offer student short courses like Cert III, IV and Diploma, and are usually paid upfront.

It is seen that TAFE courses take on average 1-year fulltime or 2 years part time. Those who are on centrelink payments can either receive free study or courses at 10% of the total course.

Why is it that TAFE is so much cheaper than university? Both provide students with different qualifications, but TAFE is considerably cheaper.

Even though many students are Commonwealth supported and only pay part of the cost of the tuition called the “student contribution”, while the government pays the balance it still doesn’t address the issue of living expenses.

An average university student in Australia will spend about $400 a week on accommodation, food, clothing, entertainment, transport and telephone. Many of these students are at university full-time.

If students are studying at university full-time and have numerous hours of contact and study time, how can it be expected that they earn enough to support themselves and meet all theses costs?

Students may find themselves in financial trouble, so they decide on fulltime work rather than completing their degree.

With people earning fulltime wages they are able to afford a way of life that students can’t. A way of life, which as a student seems so far away!

The government may contribute to student’s education with government-supported places, but where is the assistance for living costs.

Students go to university to further their skills and education, but the government makes the eligibility conditions of centrelink payments so hard that many are struggling financially.

Many students try and juggle small-paying part-time jobs as well as study.

It then comes down to decisions such as, “should I work the extra shift so I can afford my rent this week?” or “should I cancel my shift to finish off my assignment?”

Scholarships are available to decrease the tuition fees, fees which only a small percentage is taken out of wages that once a student is graduated and is working fulltime. Where is the assistance with the extra fees? Books, transport, car parking?

There seems to be many future options available to tackle the issue of tuition fees, but where is the immediate options that can help students with the additional upfront costs?

So instead of prospect university students being faced with the question of which course to choose, they are faced with the question, “Can I afford university?”

Hi I'm Britt :) Just finished second year of media and communications at Swinburne at Hawthorn. Just discovered the wonders of Twitter, and have become addicted. Avid Collingwood supporter; yet I still do have all my teeth.

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  1. Pingback: Can I Afford University? | Silent Observer

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