POLITICIANS might not consider this the right time to be looking at the meagre government support available to tertiary students from regional areas, but they need to get the message that this is an issue which year 12 students and their parents want addressed.
The scholarships offered to a limited number of HSC graduates by organisations such as the Country Education Foundation are a great help to a minority, but the foundation cannot and should not have to help every regional student who wants to obtain a tertiary qualification.
In recent months there has been some adjustment to Youth Allowance, the only source of government support available to most teenage students, but those changes relate mostly to farm assets and do nothing for the vast majority of students from middle-income families.
As our federal MPs in the Central West should know, the decision to attend a tertiary institution away from their home town imposes a huge extra cost on regional students and their families, a cost most students in metropolitan areas simply do not have to bear.
For them, there is the option to continue living at home with their parents, avoiding a weekly rent and board bill which will range from $300 to $500.
Before a single dollar is spent on textbooks, travel or university fees, kids from Orange, Dubbo, Forbes and scores of other country towns have to find $20,000 a year or more to live, depending whether they want to board on a regional campus or at a metropolitan university.
There are geographic zones which help regional students applying for Youth Allowance and relocation grants, the latter rumoured to be under threat, but there is nothing to reflect the hundreds of dollars each week rural households have to find above and beyond comparable households in Sydney.
Until our local federal MPs get serious about reforming Youth Allowance for regional students who want the same opportunities for a tertiary education as their city cousins they cannot claim a pass mark for representing country families.