(Australian Associated Press)
The plight of university students who struggle to support themselves hasn’t won over a crossbench senator.
“I’m not sure that it’s any worse than it’s ever been,” Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“The thing is the students do have a pretty good deal, care of the taxpayer.”
Senator Leyonhjelm was responding to a survey of nearly 2000 students by Anglicare Australia and the National Union of Students which details the feasibility of balancing work and study.
“There are massive obstacles for students whose parents can’t afford to support them,” said Anglicare’s executive director Kasy Chambers.
Students who relied on Youth Allowance or Austudy struggled to pay rent and make ends meet.
“And many of those who aren’t eligible have to work so many hours that it is harming their studies,” Ms Chambers said.
Eight in 10 were in paid work, including 60 per cent who work more than 10 hours a week and 20 per cent who work more than 20 hours a week.
But half of the participating students struggled with rent costs.
Senator Leyonhjelm argued university graduates eventually earned higher incomes, and more subsidies would hit those that didn’t go to university hardest.
Nevertheless, nine-in-10 students in the survey said they had struggled to buy essential items like textbooks, while more than half frequently struggled to afford such items.
It also found that 85 per cent of students did not believe that Centrelink provided them with enough to live and study.
Greens senator Janet Rice said Australia was failing its students.
“It’s a real struggle. Young people today are absolutely being screwed over,” she said, citing flagged student allowance rates that lagged behind cost-of-living increases, as well as rising student fees as concerns.