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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1102

Senator ZAKHAROV —Is the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs aware that a delegation of students from various tertiary campuses has travelled to Canberra today in order to protest at the Government's decision to phase out the subsidy to student residential colleges? Can the Minister give some further explanation of the Government's reason for phasing out the subsidy to the colleges?

Senator RYAN —I am aware that there are students from residential colleges in Canberra today and I am hoping to find time to meet some of them or some of their representatives this afternoon. When I do I will explain again to them, as I have explained to students from residential colleges throughout Australia and their administrators, what the change in the form of assistance to student accommodation means. The most important thing to say about it-and this does not seem to be well understood by some students and some administrators-is that disadvantaged students living away from home to study will benefit from the changed way of allocating the subsidy. Those students who have to live away from home, who come from remote areas, who are living in residential colleges or in any other form of accommodation that they can find for themselves will benefit from the new arrangements.

I remind honourable senators that of students in higher education institutions living in residential colleges, 71 per cent must live away from home, 11 per cent are overseas students and 40 per cent receive tertiary education assistance scheme benefits. There are 87 residences at universities but only 20 residences at colleges of advanced education. So it is quite clear that there is a variety of circumstances in which students who must live away from home to study have to live. Some live in student residences. Some of them cannot live in student residences because in the case of many of the CAE, there are no student residences to live in. So when our Government wanted to look at a better way of assisting students who need to live away from home, we could not support the maintenance of a system which assisted only those students in those institutions that had residential colleges and who were in those residential colleges.

Under the previous scheme only 6 per cent of tertiary students received any accommodation assistance at all and that assistance was not given on a needs basis. It was simply a per capita subsidy to the residential college of something in excess of $9 per week per student. That subsidy will be phased out over the triennium but about $10m will be available to all CAEs and colleges by way of an emergency fund which the institutions themselves will administer according to guidelines we are currently working out with them which will require them to give priority to accommodation assistance to students from needy backgrounds who come from country areas. In that way we believe that many more such students will receive assistance than under the present scheme.

It is very important to point out also that needier students living in halls of residence-they are the students whose cases we are sympathetic to-have already benefited in terms of the Budget because the TEAS living away from home allowance has been increased by more than $6 a week. The phase out of the subsidy will not require any increase in fees of more than between $3 and $4 a week. So the truly needy students, those on full TEAS, will receive in their TEAS increase more than enough to pay for any increases in college fees caused by the phase out. So their needs are being more than adequately met. What is of great importance to our Government and, I believe, to people who understand the circumstances of students is that under the new arrangement that $10m fund will be available to all students on a needs basis who have to live away from home. I hope that that explanation will clarify finally what the changing policy will mean, how it will be of greater benefit to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and how it will be able to be administered in a way that should not disadvantage any students.