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ACU researcher says uni fees block poor students


Higher university costs are deterring poor students, according to a study conducted by an Australian Catholic University researcher, who found that a lower proportion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds are taking on tertiary studies.

The Sydney Morning Herald says that Sarah Wright (pictured) used Australian Bureau of Statistics figures to compare the financial backgrounds of Sydney students in 1996 and 2001.

She found the university participation rate among students from reputedly wealthy areas rose by 0.611% to 5.461 during the period.

At the same time, the participation rate within poorer socio-economic areas rose by only 0.273%, to 3.390.

"Even though the number of students at university increased, the increase in the cost of university has impacted on lower socio-economic groups," Ms Wright said.

"I found that increases in the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) did deter low-income students.

"Many argued it wouldn't make a difference, because HECS loans only have to be paid back later, but increasing HECS fees still means greater student debt.

"Economic theory shows us that when the price goes up, demand goes down, and I have the statistics to show that it applies with the cost of higher education as well."

Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said the study was further proof the government's HECS rises were deterring students from entering university.

A spokesman for Education Minister Brendan Nelson said Professor Bruce Chapman, who co-designed HECS and was an adviser to the Keating Labor government, has said HECS fees do not have an adverse impact on participation from low-income students.

The spokesman said students are not required to pay any tuition fees up-front and are only required to pay back their loan to the Australian taxpayer after they have completed their studies and are earning more than $36,000 a year.

SOURCE
Uni fees block poor students: study (Australian Associated Press/Sydney Morning Herald 27/7/05)

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28 Jul 2005