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Youth Allowance changes hit rural students -

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ELEANOR HALL: Pressure from Australian university students forced the Federal Government to delay
its proposed changes to the Youth Allowance.

Now students from rural and remote areas are asking for extra changes.

They say its costs them much more than their city counterparts to attend university and that the
Government should recognise that.

Nance Haxton has our report.

NANCE HAXTON: The immediate concerns of students in this Year 12 English class at Port Lincoln's St
Joseph's School are similar to their city cousins: when is the assignment due and when does the
lesson finish.

But that is where the similarities end, with many students now wondering whether they will be able
to go to university at all, regardless of what marks they achieve.

Port Lincoln is an eight-hour drive from Adelaide and South Australia's capital is an even longer
distance for boarders from farming communities.

Year 12 students Tim Grove-Jones and Kiah Hosking say the difficulties they face should be better
recognised by the Federal Government's Youth Allowance.

TIM GROVE-JONES: The accommodation's probably $10,000 a year, and then there's other living
expenses that will just stack up. It's quite a lot of money.

KIAH HOSKING: I was going to defer and take that gap year off to earn the $18,000 but now I'm
unsure because I don't want to stay away from uni for two years. And you've got to think about
living costs as well, so you've got to have some money before you move over there.

NANCE HAXTON: They say the changes to how you qualify for Youth Allowance - from earning a set
amount of money to working a set number of hours a week - sets them further behind because it
doesn't recognise the lack of and often seasonal nature of rural work.

KIAH HOSKING: Rural areas, there's not as many businesses that will hire you for 30 hours averaged
a week.

TIM GROVE-JONES: And there's also quite a few jobs that are, like, more like on the fishing boats
and things like that, where you might make your money in a month or two months but you're not
working 30 hours a week. So under the new system it might be a bit harder to qualify.

NANCE HAXTON: St Joseph's deputy principal Richard Horgan is worried that the changes will mean
less students going to the city to study and then returning to professional careers in regional
towns - just as he did.

RICHARD HORGAN: Being taken out of that community and put in an unfamiliar environment is always
challenging. Then to have financial pressures on top of that really does compound the situation I
think.

NANCE HAXTON: What sort of strain does that put on rural families that you've seen?

RICHARD HORGAN: Oh well as we know drought conditions, that's put enormous pressure on all rural
communities right around Australia, and this is just another, dare I say, kick in the guts for
country people I think.

NANCE HAXTON: And he's not the only one concerned. Melissa Smith is the only physiotherapist in the
isolated farming community of Cleve on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula.

She lives with her husband and three children on a mixed farm in the district. She wants to send
her children to university, but the changes to youth allowance mean she's now not sure how they'll
cope financially.

MELISSA SMITH: My concern I suppose is if country kids are discouraged from taking up university
placements then we know that that can reduce the livelihood that will get students, who want to
come back to the country.

Those country kids are more likely to come back and work in the country. So there's less country
kids at uni, there's less qualified people coming back into our country areas.

NANCE HAXTON: Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey conducted a survey in his largely remote South
Australian electorate and found that the average cost of sending a rural student to university, was
$16,000 more a year than their city counterparts.

ROWAN RAMSEY: We do need something that realistically recognises the extra costs that rural and
regional students face over and above those that live in the city.

So we need a genuine, a genuine living away from home allowance which is paid to all students which
have to relocate, that reflects a fair amount for what they have to pay.

NANCE HAXTON: A Senate inquiry into rural and regional access to education starts hearings in Tweed
Heads tomorrow.

ELEANOR HALL: Nance Haxton reporting.