Tara Swain of Lismore finds it hard to balance the budget looking after her five-year-old son Harrison as well as attending university.
Tara Swain of Lismore finds it hard to balance the budget looking after her five-year-old son Harrison as well as attending university. Doug Eaton

Uni students' cost struggle

SOUTHERN Cross University Social Sciences student Tara Swain goes without a meal at least once a week and apparently she's not alone.

A report released by Uni- versities Australia indicates two-thirds of university students live below the poverty line and one in five students sometimes go without food.

Ms Swain is also a single mum to five-year-old Harrison and said she often chose whether she or Harrison would eat.

"At least once a week I go without food for the sake of my child," she said.

Ms Swain identified text book costs, work placement and inadequate Centrelink benefits as key contributors to her financial stress.

"Textbooks are ridiculously expensive and they are one of the costs you can't defer," Ms Swain said.

"When students have to do eight- and 10-week placements they are unable to work part-time and Centrelink doesn't take into account the extra costs like petrol which are still incurred," she said.

The study also identified half of university students relied on financial support from their parents to study.

"If it's not financial support, my parents help watch my son because childcare is a massive cost," Ms Swain said.

She said the Government's attitude toward study needs to change.

"Students are working to get better jobs and it should be seen as something productive to better themselves in the long run," she said.

President of the Lismore and External Student Association (LEXA) Ben Bullivant said, LEXA services, on average, between 200 and 300 students a week with a barbecue on campus and during session one, helped between 10 and 12 students a week with additional food support.

"At Southern Cross, the student debt has risen to 20%," Mr Bullivant said.

"Financial hardships and the percentage of students unable to eat would be higher than the report indicates because we have non-traditional students and their needs are a lot greater," he said.

The report assessed almost 12, 000 full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Twenty-one per cent of these students had an annual income of less than $10,000.


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