Early access to university assistance

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For many high-school graduates in regional towns like Albany, a gap year might not necessarily be filled with fun and games.

Katelyn Russell, 19, has spent her gap year working full-time to save for her university education in Perth because State financial support would not be available until well into her first year of study.

However, after changes to the Youth Allowance system this year, regional students like Ms Russell are now eligible to claim support earlier than metropolitan students.

Before the change, Ms Russell would have to wait for 18 months before receiving any help from the government, but now she is eligible to receive benefits after a 14-month waiting period.

“I was so thrilled when I found out that I can get youth allowance in February” she said. “As a regional student this would be a big help for me — having to relocate to Perth as well as the cost to set up the house and buying university books and just living costs in general, it all adds up.”

Ms Russell is part of a large group of regional students who don’t have the luxury of sharing some of their living costs with their parents.

Cutting the youth allowance waiting period will encourage more regional students to enrol for university — something Member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson has been pushing for.

“Many regional students who have to move away from their home to study are unable to access Youth Allowance because their parents’ combined income is above $150,000, disqualifying them from any kind of payment until they are 22,” he said

Mr Wilson said regional families with children studying in the city often had to support their living expenses. However, when asked if he thought the waiting period could be cut by even more for regional students, he said further reductions were unlikely. “But I’ve asked Minister (for Human Services Alan) Tudge if we can consider a third regionally-specific stream for gaining independence status to recognise the additional financial pressures regional students and their families face when pursuing tertiary study,” he said.

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