Student poverty is pretty much accepted as the norm in Australian society and is a running joke in student circles.
Really it’s no laughing matter and it’s very unfortunate that those who study and live out of home can’t even afford to eat properly during exam time.
To make life easier, if you’re a student you should take advantage of the special discounts, payments and lines of credit that are available to you during your studies.
Youth allowance and government money
Any student knows that Centrelink’s Youth Allowance system is difficult to access, overly technical and unfairly impacts on students who need to work long hours. The most important thing when dealing with Centrelink is to make sure you’re getting every cent you’re entitled to:
- Research exactly what you’re entitled to
- Apply for payments as soon as you become eligible
- Be sure to apply for Rent Assistance as soon as you move out of the parental home
- Work out how many hours you can work each week without losing all of your Youth Allowance – otherwise you’re essentially working for free
The Rudd government has recently made changes to Youth Allowance which should mean that more students are eligible and income support is increased significantly. The changes take effect in 2010 and you can read up on them here.
All public universities have a student loan system which only enrolled students can take advantage of. The amount you are able to borrow will depend on the university you attend. Like HECS, student loans from universities are interest free and can be paid back in instalments.
Most people will never have another opportunity to take out an interest free loan. Generally, you will receive the loaned money very quickly after you submit your application and lots of universities can loan smaller amounts within a few hours in case of emergency. Depending on the university, student loans range from $500 to more than $5000.
Most Youth Allowance recipients can also take out a $500 advance payment from Centrelink on interest free terms.
Some scholarships are offered by individual universities and others are offered by the government of the state you live in. There are several that you will be able to apply for during you degree. Scholarships will usually consider academic merit in conjunction with financial hardship so you’re more likely to get approved for one if you live out of home and have good grades.
Special discounts for students via the Student Union
The advent of voluntary student unionism has severely affected the power of university student organisations to represent and serve their student body. Whilst joining the student union was expensive when compulsory, the benefits of having a powerful student union far outweighed the burden of the individual yearly payment.
The reality is you should join your student union even though it seems expensive. Being a student union member entitles you to an extremely wide range of discounts both on campus and off. It only takes a few weeks before your membership will pay for itself and you’ll continue saving all year.
Be sure to become a member of your university bookshop or co-op since membership entitles you to significant discounts on textbooks. Also, most universities have food co-ops which you can join that entitle you to discount fruit and veggies.