On May 17, I received an email from Centrelink advising that I would no longer be eligible for the student start-up scholarship.
This means the $1035 payment that helped to pay for my textbooks, university car parking fees and other course materials will now only be available as a loan I will have to pay back on HECs.
Losing this start-up scholarship will hurt many students, with welfare payments hardly keeping up with the ever-increasing cost of living and rent.
Students will be forced to either add to their already daunting HECs debt or risk having to change how they live day-to-day to cope with the cost of everyday life.
This budget “saving” is yet one more deterrent for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds who are considering whether they can afford to delay entering the increasingly precarious and casualised workforce to study for a costly university degree, especially one with expensive course materials such as law or medicine.
The change will particularly be damaging for poorer students or those who are forced to relocate to attend university.
Previously, university students on welfare payments received two payments of $1035, one in each semester. But, under the federal Coalition government, from the start of 2016 anyone who enrolled in university could access the loan, which was added to the HECs debt, although it was grandfathered for anyone already enrolled.
Julia Gillard’s federal Labor government originally floated cutting the start-up scholarship, but the idea was quickly scotched as the backlash was so huge.
[Phil Craig is a member of Resistance and a student at Western Sydney University.]