Students, parents, teachers and other interested community members from across Wannon have the opportunity to put forward their ideas on how the Commonwealth Government can better support local students to gain a university degree.

Member for Wannon, Dan Tehan along with the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment Senator Bridget McKenzie and representatives from the departments of Education and Social Services, will host the Regional Higher Education Forum in Warrnambool on Tuesday 25 August, 2015.

It will provide an opportunity for local students, parents, teachers and community members to discuss the barriers to accessing higher education for regional and remote students and how to overcome them.

The Regional Higher Education Forum in Warrnambool is one of 15 to be held across the country to identify new and innovative ideas to better support regional and remote students to access higher education.

The departments of Education and Social Services recently investigated the barriers to higher education faced by regional and remote students, producing a joint interim report.

The interim report found that regional and remote students face additional barriers to accessing higher education, including costs, socioeconomic status, distance, school experiences, preparedness and aspiration.

“A postcode should not determine whether a young person can secure a university degree but sadly it does,” Mr Tehan said.

“Young people from regional and remote communities make up 27 per cent of Australia’s population, yet they only represent 21 per cent of Australia’s university population – this is simply not good enough.

“Securing a university degree is important to our young people with graduates earning on average 75 per cent more over the life of their careers.

“It is also vitally important to the future of our local communities because they are our doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, journalists, teachers, engineers and computer programmers of tomorrow.”

Senator McKenzie echoed Mr Tehan’s comments and said the added cost burden was one of the biggest barriers to securing a university degree.

“Students who have to relocate to study face costs of between $15,000 and $20,000 a year before they have even purchased a book or paid for their tuition,” Senator McKenzie said.

“They are forced to pay between $250 and $400 a week to live away from home with relocation costs of between $3,000 and $6,000, not to mention trips and phone calls home.

“These significant cost burdens are not faced by city students who can remain at home while they study.

“While there are some support programmes available such as Youth Allowance and relocation grants, many families who earn above the threshold don’t qualify and are left to foot the bill.

“For a local family with two or more students wanting to access higher education these extra costs are often crippling.”

Mr Tehan encouraged students and their families, as well as principals, teachers, careers advisers and other interested community members to attend the forum to share their story and ideas.

Their contribution will help shape a final report which will be presented to Minister for Education Christopher Pyne and Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison later this year.

“The recommendations in the final report will become a catalyst for change,” Mr Tehan said.

To register your interest in attending the forum phone 1300 131 692 or email: rsvp@dantehan.com.au

Media contact: Cate Mercer-Grant 03 5572 1100 or 0408 564 232