The Rudd Government wants to see more people with university degrees and to make this happen they sweetened-up the study allowance given to most students, but the fine print has left many high school graduates feeling a little left out.
So, starting from the first of April many students receiving income support can get a scholarship of $1300 for each year of their course. Added to this by 2012 they will be able to earn up to $400 a fortnight before their payments start being reduced.
With these changes come some pretty substantial changes to the eligibility criteria, making it a lot harder for metropolitan students from higher income families to receive the benefits.
But first, let’s talk about the fun stuff! Currently most students classed as independent receive $377 every two weeks. On top of this students can receive rent assistance of up to $113 if their rent is more than $250.
Edward Cronin lives in a house with two other students, he just started an Arts Degree and has decided not to work this semester.
“I can afford to pay rent, bills and food and go out.” Says Edward, “I think it is ridiculous that they are trying to give us more. It’s money for nothing, all I have to do is study and then support the baby boomers when they retire.”
Well they are!
The Government has introduced the Student Start Up Scholarship program to help students pay for things like textbooks and specialised learning equipment. This year eligible students will receive $1300, given in two payments at the start of each semester. In 2011 this amount will increase to over $2000.
The personal income threshold is also being increased. Currently students receiving government assistance, start having their payments reduced for every dollar they earn if they fortnightly pay packet exceeds $236. From 2012, this amount will be extended to $400.
Journalism student Nick Skeer doesn’t claim Centrelink payments, but says the increase in the threshold could definitely make things a lot better for him.
“I live on about $400 a week. Because I work so much I didn’t think I would get much out of it, but now it would be worth a try”
However, Nick admits that the extra money would probably go into saving and not have a huge impact on his lifestyle.
The Government has also increased the Parental Income Threshold by about ten grand a child. Meaning more students still living with their parents will be eligible for the payments.
But this brings us to the uglier side of the legislation. If a student’s parents do earn over the threshold, they must prove to Centrelink they are independent in order to get assistance. Sadly, simply moving out of home isn’t enough and the new legislation has made qualifying for the independence a fair bit harder.
Previously, proving independence meant earning a certain amount, about twenty thousand dollars, within an 18 month period. Most students could do this in their Gap year and be eligible for the payments by the time they started university.
The new system requires potential students to average 30 hours per week over an 18 month period. This means deferring students will be forced to work full time during their first semester at university or risk losing their place.
After some very fierce opposition from some very angry rural students, the Government exempted anyone living in an outer regional area from these changes.
This is cold comfort for Erin Turner. Erin finished school last year and is thinking about studying at Flinders University next year. Despite living in the hills and facing a possible three hour bus commute, she will be forced to work full time for 18 months to receive assistance.
“It would be impossible for me to study and work full time. My workplace only offers full day shifts, which I wouldn’t be able to do. I’d have to get a new job.”
For more information, jump on the Centrelink website