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ACU study reveals extent of student poverty

Poverty among tertiary students is an urgent social problem, not just a rite of passage, says the author of a new study of student incomes, released by the Australian Catholic University.

An enquiry should be held as soon as possible, according to author Judith Bessant, director of the ACU's Social Policy and Advocacy Research Centre.

The popularity of the ``romantic idea that student poverty is a normal part of student life'' is a big obstacle to addressing impoverished conditions in which many university students now live, said Associate Professor Bessant. ``Unless an issue is identified as a serious social problem, it is unlikely to become part of a policy agenda'' for governments or even universities, she said.

She said: ``An investigation will help inform policies. The continuation of the current situation raises serious questions about our claim to be a just, democratic and clever society.''

More than seven in 10 undergraduate full-time students were employed during a semester and weekly work hours averaged about 14.5 hours.

``When students attend class exhausted by their employment, when students can hardly stay awake after stocking the shelves of the local supermarket, the value of their education experience is dubious,'' Professor Bessant said.

Australian Catholic University

The Australian

18 Apr 2002