The Vice-Chancellor and President of Charles Sturt University (CSU), Professor Ian Goulter, today expressed concern about the proposal by the federal Coalition to take $227 million away from programs designed to support lower socio-economic students in higher education.
Costing documents released by the Coalition have identified savings of $56 million in 2011-12, $84.6 million in 2012-13, and $86.3 million in 2013-14 by ‘capping the low SES Participation Equity programs’.
The present Government allocated $433 million over three years to assist universities to meet the government’s equity targets, including $325 million for an equity loading.
“Charles Sturt University welcomes the Coalition’s commitment of new funding to the Regional Education Fund, and the changes to the Youth Allowance Scheme to make it easier for rural and regional students to meet the eligibility test,” Professor Goulter said.
“However, a large number of rural and regional students attending University are from lower socio-economic backgrounds. These are vulnerable students.
“Rural and regional young people are about half as likely to go to university compared to their metropolitan counterparts.
"Increasing participation among these students is essential if we are to address labour force shortages in professions across rural and regional Australia including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, agricultural scientists and other professions.”
Professor Goulter said this funding helped regional universities establish pathways and provide support services for students from low socio-economic backgrounds.
“Reducing the amount of money available to regional universities will impact directly on our ability to provide the level of support rural and regional students need to succeed,” he said
“We not only need to ensure that rural and regional students can access university, we must also ensure that they have the support to succeed at university.
“We need rural and regional students to succeed at university if we are to rebuild our rural professional workforce and address critical labour force shortages.
"I urge the Coalition to reconsider any proposed reduction in funding for lower socio-economic students that will adversely impact on higher education opportunities available to people in rural and regional Australia,” Professor Goulter said.