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FED: Give poor students more cash to study: Bradley

By Julian Drape
17 Dec 2008 12:01 AM
Eds: Embargoed until 0001 AEDT Wednesday, Dec 17

CANBERRA, Dec 17 AAP - Students struggling to survive on meagre incomes while at university should be given a break, a review of tertiary education says.

The Bradley Review has recommended boosting student support payments after finding current levels are inadequate.

"Current levels of income support are inadequate to support the participation and success of students from low socio-economic backgrounds," the review's final report, released on Wednesday, says.

"Reforms to, and better targeting of, income support ... are urgently required."

The report recommends increasing the parental income test threshold from $31,400 to $42,559 so more students qualify for support.

It wants the threshold to be indexed at the same rate as the family tax benefit.

Students should also be allowed to earn $400 per fortnight without it affecting their ability to receive Austudy or Youth Allowance.

Currently they can only earn $236 every two weeks.

The report further suggests reducing the age of independence to qualify for support from 25 to 22 years.

National Union of Students (NUS) president Angus McFarland says students are thrilled with the "robust" recommendations.

"The situation is currently pretty dire," Mr McFarland said.

"Youth Allowance hasn't been properly reviewed or indexed since 1992.

"During that time we've had massive increases in the costs of living, especially with rent, food and petrol."

Mr McFarland said students doing it tough deserved extra assistance from the government.

"Particularly the most financially needy and struggling students and that's what a lot of these recommendations are targeting."

The review, chaired by University of South Australia vice-chancellor Denise Bradley, made 46 recommendations aimed at reforming the financing and regulation of the higher education sector.