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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 971

Senator KILGARIFF —I direct my question to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. I refer to the Government's decision to abolish the per capita subsidy to students at residential colleges at Australian universities and colleges of advanced education. Does the Minister acknowledge the difficulties faced by students from remote areas such as the Northern Territory in arranging for accommodation while they are studying away from home? In view of the reliance of students from isolated areas on residential halls and colleges, and bearing in mind the Government's professed commitment to widening access to tertiary education for disadvantaged groups, country people included, what action will the Minister take to ensure that students from remote areas are not disadvantaged by the abolition of the subsidy?

Senator RYAN —I did answer a question about this matter last week. Senator Kilgariff must not have heard what I had to say.

Senator Chaney —He was hoping you would improve your answer in the few days since.

Senator RYAN —Well, Senator Chaney might or might not be interested in this but I think Senator Kilgariff is. The subsidies will be phased out; they are not going to be removed immediately. The phasing will allow the colleges to adjust the way they operate their residences. However, it is important to realise that the way the subsidy was operating until we changed it meant that only 6 per cent of tertiary students got any direct assistance for accommodation needs. That is clearly inequitable. An amount of money was going to support accommodation but it was going only to university college residences and to some, but not all, residences in colleges of advanced education. So I think everyone would have to agree that this was an inequitable use of the funds available for student accommodation assistance.

After receiving advice from the Tertiary Education Commission we decided to continue to make funds available but to make them available in a different way. The Tertiary Education Commission will report in volume 2 on the details of the new arrangements which will be along these lines: That all institutions will be able to get funds for the amount allocated for this form of student assistance; they will be able to run their own loans scheme; and the guidelines will include a provision that priority for loans from these schemes are to go to students from remote areas who need to board. So it may well be that students from remote areas, about whom Senator Kilgariff is concerned, will get more assistance as a result of the way the scheme is being reorganised than was the case with the previous scheme. In fact, students from remote areas who are studying in colleges of advanced education that had no access to the previous schemes will certainly be better off. As the scheme will be needs based, many students from remote areas certainly will get more assistance than they were able to get before because the previous scheme simply provided a per capita subsidy to those colleges which happened to be operating when the scheme was introduced.

It is also important to realise that we have increased tertiary education assistance scheme allowances by 10 per cent. Therefore, the amount by which college residences will have to increase their fees, should they decide to do so , to make up for a reduction in the per capita grant will in many cases be more than compensated for by the TEAS increases. So in summary, the assistance will now go directly to the students themselves rather than to the colleges; it will go on a needs basis; it will go in a way that is administered internally by the institutions, and we want students to participate in the administration of the scheme; and all students from needy backgrounds, but especially those from remote areas, will have first call on the scheme.