STUDENT allowances need reform to bridge the gap between city and country, according to Parkes MP Mark Coulton.
Students from remote and regional areas face significant cost barriers when it comes to university study, and last month Mr Coulton, alongside representatives of the federal education and social services departments, hosted a Regional Higher Education Forum (RHEF) in Narrabri to consult with students and parents on the issue.
A key issue raised at the government-led forum was the insufficiency of government assistance currently available to support regional and remote students living away from home.
"At the moment some of the allowances are very useful, but they're not enough," Mr Coulton said.
"You sort of need $10,000 to $15,000 a year to make up for living away. We actually need a program that's actually specifically designed to stop the imbalance between city and country."
The maximum youth allowance payment for a single person required to live away from home to study currently sits at $426.80 per fortnight, while the parental means test restricts payments available to students whose parents earn more than $150,000 a year.
Mr Coulton said it's just not enough to support a student living out of home.
"Many of them are having to work several jobs to make up the difference, which in many cases impacts on their ability to function at university if they're working half the night in a bar, or packing shelves."
Other concerns raised at the forum included making changes to university study to enable students to stay at home for longer, and changing community attitudes to encourage more regional students to consider higher education.
Fifteen of the forums are being held nationwide, and are set to wrap up by the end of September with a report to be delivered by the end of the year.
"Once that report comes out it will be about designing a program to address the concerns raised. I'm hoping that by next year we'll have an indication of what those policies might look like," Mr Coulton said.