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Government & Labor sell out students.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja

Democrats Senator for South Australia Australian Democrats spokesperson for Higher Education

Dated: 31 August 2004

Government & Labor Sell Out Students

University students facing financial hardship have again been ignored by the Howard Governments refusal to exempt university scholarships from the social security income test.

Democrats Higher Education Spokesperson Natasha Stott Despoja said Labors refusal to support the Democrats amendments in the Senate last night to exempt these scholarships was hypocritical.

"Exempting university scholarships from social security income tests will help ease the burden on many students, including those students living below the poverty line," Democrats' Higher Education Spokesperson Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said.

"The Government has exempted the Commonwealth Learning Scholarships in the new higher education legislation, but until now, discretionary scholarships provided by universities have been ignored.

"Disadvantaged students in need of income support are severely compromised by the current arrangements which prevent them receiving the full benefit of these scholarships.

"Levels of student income support are already critically low and, compared to other payments, provide little real incentive for people to pursue higher education with the aim of improving their employment prospects.

"Students are already paying on average $2,137 more per year in HECS than they did in 1996 and from next year most universities will increase their HECS fees by up to 25%. With these HECS increases, many universities have announced new or enhanced scholarship programmes to assist disadvantaged students, but are frustrated by the current tight restrictions on scholarships.

"We have received strong support from Vice-Chancellors, students and university staff for our amendments to exempt university equity scholarships from the social security income test.

"Labors commitment to students must now be questioned. Even if Labor wins Government, thousands of students will have to spend at least another year living below the poverty line and losing income support payments when they are granted a discretionary university scholarship."