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Record student debt and poverty highlights Government failure

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 15 Jul 2013

Commenting on today’s report of students living in poverty and struggling to cope with increasing debt, Greens higher education spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon renewed her party’s call for the federal government to restore the $2.3 billion cut from university budgets and boost base funding.

“The government has slashed $1.2 billion from the higher education budget by converting Start-Up Scholarships into loans – impacting 80,000 new students from next year. This policy will drive student debt up even further and is negatively skewed to students from low-income backgrounds,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“The Universities Australia report increases pressure on Labor and the Coalition to overhaul their higher education policies as it demonstrates that student debt is at record levels. 

“Student debt has risen by almost 30 per cent in six years.

“The report estimates full-time students will graduate university with an estimated debt of more than $37,000. The government’s damaging cuts will increase that debt by an average $8200 or 22 per cent for every student on Youth Allowance. 

“It is particularly concerning that an increasing number of students are missing classes, going without food or other necessities.

“This is why the government needs to reverse its cuts to higher education and immediately increase public funding by 10 per cent - costed at $1.5 billion over four years.

“Due to chronic underfunding, many universities have resorted to squeezing students for cash by charging huge amounts for textbooks, ancillary course fees and increasing accommodation costs.

“Establishing a sustainable public funding source for universities and retaining government scholarships will reduce the financial burden on students.

“Higher education is shaping up as a key issue in this election campaign,” Senator Rhiannon said.

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