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Overcoming barriers to higher education for local students

On Thursday 30 July 2015, Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, will host the Regional Higher Education Forum in Narrabri, commencing at 3.30pm at the Narrabri Bowling Club.

The forum aims to give local students, parents, teachers and other interested community members the opportunity to put forward their ideas on how the Commonwealth Government can better support local students to gain a university degree.


The forum will also provide an opportunity for attendees to discuss the barriers to accessing higher education for regional and remote students and how to overcome these.


Joining Mr Coulton at the forum will be Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment, Senator Bridget McKenzie and representatives from the Department of Education and the Department of Social Services.


The Regional Higher Education Forum in Narrabri is one of 15 forums to be held in rural and regional areas across the country.


The Department of Education and Department of Social Services recently investigated the barriers to higher education faced by regional and remote students, producing a joint interim report.


The interim report found that regional and remote students face additional barriers to accessing higher education, including costs, socioeconomic status, distance, school experiences, preparedness and aspiration.


With his electorate covering one third of rural and regional New South Wales, Mr Coulton is passionate about enhancing access to higher education for rural and regional students.


“A postcode should not determine whether a young person can secure a university degree but sadly it does,” Mr Coulton said.


“Young people from regional and remote communities make up 27 per cent of Australia’s population, yet they only represent 21 per cent of Australia’s university population – this is simply not good enough.


“Securing a university degree is important to our young people with graduates earning on average 75 per cent more over the life of their careers.


“It is also vitally important to the future of our local communities because they are our doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, journalists, teachers, engineers and computer programmers of tomorrow.”


Senator McKenzie echoed Mark Coulton’s comments and said the added cost burden was one of the biggest barriers to securing a university degree.


“Students who have to relocate to study face costs of between $15,000 and $20,000 a year before they have even purchased a book or paid for their tuition,” Senator McKenzie said.


“They are forced to pay between $250 and $400 a week to live away from home with relocation costs of between $3,000 and $6,000, not to mention trips and phone calls home. 


“These significant cost burdens are not faced by city students who can remain at home while they study.


“While there are some support programmes available such as Youth Allowance and relocation grants, many families who earn above the threshold don’t qualify and are left to foot the bill.


“For a local family with two or more students wanting to access higher education these extra costs are often crippling.”


Mr Coulton encourages students and their families, as well as principals, teachers, careers advisers and other interested community members to attend the forum to share their story and ideas.


“Their contribution will help shape a final report which will be presented to the Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne and the Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison later this year,” Mr Coulton said.


“The recommendations in the final report will become a catalyst for change.”


To register your interest in attending the forum please phone (02) 6751 1251 or email mark.coulton.mp@aph.gov.au.

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