If you are living in a regional or rural area and need to move away from home to study next year you are probably feeling anxious about the big move. While metropolitan students are usually able to stay at home until they find their feet, many country students are forced out of their comfort zone as they try to adjust to the student lifestyle, living in a city and the new responsibilities and expenses of living away from home.
But don’t worry, you are not alone! Student numbers from regional and remote areas have increased by ten per cent this year, and many regional students will have taken advantage of the financial aid that institutions and the government offer.
- Youth allowance is a fortnightly payment available through Centrelink for full-time students aged 16–24.
- There are two main ways of qualifying for payments as a regional or rural student living away from home: you will either be classified as dependent, meaning that your payment amount will depend on the result of a parental means test, or you will be classified as independent. Both independent and dependent students living away from home will receive the highest possible ‘away from home’ rate of payment.
- To qualify for independent status, students from 'inner regional', ‘regional’, ‘remote’ or ‘very remote’ areas need to work part time (at least 15 hours a week) for two years after leaving school or earn at least 75 per cent of the maximum pay rate under Wage Level A of the Australian Pay and Classification Scale (currently $22,239) in an 18-month period. You can find out the remoteness classification of your family home using the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) remoteness area maps (see below).
- Undergraduate courses, some diplomas, TAFE courses and some postgraduate courses are approved for this payment.
- Alternatives to Youth Allowance include Austudy (for full-time students aged 25 and over) and ABSTUDY (for Indigenous students and apprentices).
- To find out the best option for you, call Centrelink on 132 490 to arrange an interview in the months before you finish Year 12.
- Students receiving Youth Allowance who are living away from home may also apply for rent assistance. These payments will provide you with a handy contribution towards your rent expenses in addition to your other payments.
Federal government scholarships
One of the main sources of scholarships for commencing students is the federal government, which assists students who have experienced disadvantage. For more information, visit www.humanservices.gov.au and www.education.gov.au.
- Student Start-up Loans are available to all full-time higher education students studying an approved course who are receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY. There are two loan periods each year, with students eligible for $1,055 per loan period in 2018. The loan is repaid through the taxation system once students begin earning above the repayment threshold ($55,874 in 2017–18).
- Relocation Scholarships are paid to eligible dependent Youth Allowance and ABSTUDY Living Allowance students who need to live away from home to undertake full-time study in an approved course. In 2017, this scholarship provided eligible students from regional and remote areas with a lump-sum payment of $4,459 when they first moved away from home to commence study, $2,231 in the second and third years of study, and $1,115 in the fourth and subsequent years. Eligible students not from regional and remote areas were entitled to a payment of $4,459 when they first moved away from home to commence study and $1,115 in subsequent years.
Institution scholarships and grants:
- Be sure to apply for any scholarships or grants that your education institution or college offers to students from regional and rural areas. There are generally quite a few reserved especially for students in your situation of varying amounts, which may assist with living costs, tuition costs or both. Check out the scholarships section of your institution’s website to see what they have to offer, or give them a call
- You may also be eligible for special rural and regional entry schemes designed to place you on an equal footing with other students.