Regional students counting the cost as university education fees soar

ATTENDING university may become impossible for many regional students in the next 10 years as the cost of living and university fees are expected to skyrocket.

University fees and the cost of living for a three-year course are estimated to be more than $114,000, but, according to the Australian Scholarships Group (ASG), that figure could rise to almost $170,000.

While most students living in Sydney have the option of attending a university within commuting distance and saving on costs like rent and utilities, it is regional students who are left with the biggest bills.

ASG estimates it costs an extra $15,000 a year to rent shared accommodation than to live at home. 

By 2024, the cost of living away from home while studying could be higher than $37,000 a year.

For students who are trying to live on a part-time income or government assistance, it will be almost impossible to make ends meet, according to Country Education Foundation chief executive Sarah Taylor.

She says more will need to be done to ensure that tertiary education is a possibility for rural students in the future.

“We are already seeing the impact of university study on people from rural and regional areas, especially when they are studying in metropolitan areas. Even when you factor in government assistance and other scholarships, it is still barely enough for people to survive,” she said.

“Most of the people we provide scholarships for are getting some sort of youth allowance and also working one, two or even three jobs. And that has a major impact on your ability to study.

Ms Taylor said there was already a big gap between students from urban and regional areas.

“If you take a classroom in Dubbo and one in Sydney, both with similar grades, you can bet that 50 per cent more students from the Sydney class will go to university and that is because of the financial barrier,” she said.

“Looking ahead, if these trends of rising university fees and costs continue, the educational divide is going to continue to widen.”

Yearly course costs for accounting, law, veterinary science and medicine degrees are estimated to rise from $10,085 per year in 2014 to $16,775 in 2024, while horticulture and engineering degrees are forecast to increase from $8613 to $14,326 a year in 2024, and photography and psychology degrees are forecast to jump from $6044 to $10,053 in the next decade.

ASG CEO John Velegrinis said Australia had no choice but to maintain high levels of training to compete on the world stage, but said the rising costs were a major concern and could exclude some.

“Australians will continue to compete in an increasingly global job market, so it is critical that students gain the necessary skills required to secure employment. Yet the affordability of post-secondary education is one area that can limit a student’s access to continuing study,” he said.

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