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FED: Student income support boost as higher ed gets extra $5.3b

By Julian Drape
12 May 2009 7:37 PM
Subject: FED: Student income support boost as higher ed gets extra $5.3b FED: Student income support boost as higher ed gets extra $5.3b

CANBERRA, May 12 AAP - Australia's universities were hoping to receive $6.5 billion over four years in this year's budget, as recommended by the Bradley review into higher education.

Instead they got $5.3 billion for the entire sector over six years.

But it's a start, and will see some real money behind Labor's response to the Bradley and Cutler innovation reviews.

Students have got what they wanted - increased access to income support.

The parental income threshold will jump from $32,800 to $42,559 next year, meaning 68,000 more students will qualify and another 35,000 will receive higher payments.

The age of independence will be progressively lowered from 25 in 2009 to 22 by 2012, and a new start-up scholarship means all those on support will receive $2,254 for education costs.

Country students will get a new relocation allowance of $4,000 in their first year at university and $1,000 each year after that.

Students will also be able to earn $400 a fortnight from 2011 before losing benefits, up from $236.

But it's not all good news for undergraduates.

The government is tightening the criteria to prove independence.

In the past students who worked 15 hours per week part-time or earned $20,000 over 18 months qualified for support.

>From 2010, they'll need to work full-time for at least 30 hours a week.

"This change will ensure only students who are genuinely independent can receive student income support," Education Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement.

Labor has also put money behind key structural changes announced earlier this year.

Uncapping student places from 2012 will cost $491 million.

Then there's $57 million over four years to establish a national regulatory agency to oversee the new deregulated system, and $437 million over four years to help meet the goal of enrolling an additional 55,000 students from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020.

Increasing the rate of indexation for higher education funding will cost $578 million over three years from 2011.

Treasure Wayne Swan says the investment will help Australia recover from the global recession.

"Australia's recovery depends heavily on the quality of our human capital," he said.

"On our ability to educate our people and to innovate in business."

As expected, there's big dollars for buildings.

Successful projects from round two of the Education Investment Fund (EIF) will receive $934 million over four years.

A further $750 million will be set aside for fund future rounds.

A sustainability round of the EIF will see $650 million go to clean energy and climate change research infrastructure.

On the research side, there's an additional $512 million for the indirect cost of research, with the aim of moving to funding 50 per cent of direct costs, and $901 million from the EIF for science.

There's also $277 million to fund Labor's recent commitment to guarantee jobless under-25s a training place.

AAP jcd/mo


FED: Student income support boost as higher ed gets extra $5.3b