Shepparton's Kate Hall has given up her studies at Monash University due to her family's struggle to pay her expenses.JOHN LEWIS March 24, 2014 4:05am
As regional students settle into their first few weeks at city universities, some will struggle with new surroundings, others with unfamiliar faces and routines.
But most will find the biggest battle is money.
Despite changes to the Youth Allowance scheme two years ago allowing ‘‘inner regional’’ students access to the scheme under the same criteria as students from remote areas, country students still face crushing economic hurdles to complete their studies. News journalist JOHN LEWIS spoke to Shepparton’s Kate Hall about her experience.
For Shepparton’s Kate Hall, the dream of gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree at Monash University ended last year when her parents simply could no longer afford to keep her in Melbourne.
Kate completed her VCE studies at Notre Dame Secondary College in November 2012 and was planning on a gap year to help support her tertiary studies.
She had worked part-time throughout her Year 12 studies, but her earnings were not enough to qualify for Youth Allowance.
When her exam results came through and she was offered an immediate place at Monash, she decided to go.
Her mother Deb said the family knew it would be difficult.
‘‘When she decided to go last minute, we went into damage control,’’ Deb said.
‘‘We were working from reserves we didn’t have.’’
She said the highest part of Kate’s expenditure was the $900 a month in rent for student accommodation.
Kate said other than basic food and books, she could not afford anything else.
‘‘The books were so expensive — that was $400 to $500 every semester,’’ she said.
‘‘I felt awful asking for help. I’d already asked for more than I was comfortable with.’’
At the same time, Kate’s younger brother Daniel was entering Year 11, which required books, uniform and school fees.
Deb was also about to start a full-time arts course at La Trobe University in Shepparton.
However, she was forced to look for part-time work to help meet family expenses, which, at that point, were solely dependant on her husband Neil’s salary as an IT manager.
‘‘It took me quite a while to find one. It got to the stage that if I didn’t find a job in the next couple of weeks, we would have had to pull her (Kate) out of college because we couldn’t pay the bills,’’ Deb said.
At the last minute, Deb secured part-time work at Shepparton’s Video Ezy in May.
By the end of the year, the family was still struggling.
‘‘Everything I earned was going towards her rent and keeping Kate at uni. Then we had food, books and utilities on top of that,’’ Deb said.
‘‘There were times that Kate was living off bread and tomatoes. There were weeks we were living off a pot of pasta that I’d make.’’
Kate said she made the decision in October last year to give up her studies at Monash.
‘‘I felt guilty all the time asking for money. I knew my family was struggling and it was making me hate what I was doing,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s kind of sad. But I live with friends here now — and I’m working here in a job that gives me good hours. It’s still sad that I couldn’t continue.’’
Kate said she may apply again for a metropolitan college course next year, but she wants to earn enough money first.
‘‘I just don’t want to struggle like that again. It was just awful,’’ she said.
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