Rising costs force university rethink

IT IS almost impossible to go to university without taking a gap year if you can not rely on your parents for finance, Orange students believe. 

Students need to earn $22,000 in 18 months in order to be eligible for independent youth allowance which is around $503.40 per fortnight. 

Former Year 12 student McKenzie Battye-Smith said she had no choice but to take a gap year before going to Sydney for university because there was no way she could afford to live away from home and study full-time without assistance. 

She believes she was lucky to have employment but her friends had found it difficult to secure jobs in Orange for 12 months before university.

“Twenty-two grand in 18 months is a lot to ask when the jobs aren’t out there,” she said.

“It needs to be a lot less for regional kids, especially for people doing traineeships where you don’t get paid as much.”

Living on campus in Sydney is about $250 per week. If a student receives independent youth allowance, that leaves just $3.40 per fortnight. 

The average rent in the greater Sydney area in the 2011 census was $351 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. 

Student Lachlan Jensen is in the same boat and is looking at working two jobs in Orange for the next 12 months to afford living on campus fees in Wollongong next year. 

He said finding a job was not too hard if you were prepared and started applying during Year 12 but he was worried if he saved up too much, he would not get rent assistance. Rent assistance is means tested and takes liquid assets into account. 

“If I do not get rent assistance I don’t know what I’ll do,” he said. 

To be assessed as independent, students must study full-time and move away from home to study.

Orange is considered an inner regional area, so parent’s income may be taken into account and must be below $150,000 per year. 

After first round university offers were announced two weeks ago, about 172 Orange students were offered places and two decided to accept offers to study in Orange. 

Former student Sam Bennett said she was lucky she scored a spot at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst so she could live at home and start university in February. 

She also applied for a spot in Albury, Wagga Wagga and Dubbo just in case she missed out in Bathurst and said she would have had to take a gap year in order to afford it. 

nicole.kuter@

fairfaxmedia.com.au

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