Student plea for help

STUDENTS struggling to pay their rent and bills have called for universities to lower their course fees, and for more government assistances.

Savannah Benson was forced to move back to Perth from studying in Canberra, but says that wouldn’t have been necessary if she could have accessed the Morrison government’s JobKeeper subsidy.

She’s been picking up some casual work organising events, but as Covid-19 restrictions came in, they were all cancelled.

“I had to move back in with my family in Perth for help because I can’t pay for groceries,” Ms Benson said.

“I feel the government has left students behind.

“The government needs to be stepping up.” 

Ms Benson backed a campaign launched by the National Union of Students this week which calls for Jobkeeper subsidies to be extended to struggling students who’ve lost casual work, a 20 per cent reduction in fees and financial help for international students, who wouldn’t qualify for Jobkeeper anyway.

Malaysian student Elin Anuar is studying journalism at Curtin University and said she didn’t pay for online classes and wants a reduction in her course fees.

“I’m in my final year and many things are practical. You may still be able to do it online, but it is not the same.” 

Miss Anuar said as an international student, she can pay up to three times more in her fees than domestic students.

“I didn’t pay to stay in my room,” she said. “The quality of teaching is not the same.” 

“We have a hope that international students get support,” Miss Willmott said. “Most don’t know where their next meal will come from.”

“What we’re looking for is getting in touch with the government and work with others in the sector, to try and ensure the student body understands that they deserve support and to be looked after.”

Murdoch University announced announced at the end of last month a $2 million student assistant fund. The package also included refunds on parking fees and bursaries to help with groceries and the costs of moving to online learning.

Murdoch provost Romy Lawson said if students failed a unit in semester 1, it would not be recorded or affect their grades. 

“This decision in no way changes Murdoch’s high academic standards,” Prof Lawson said. 

“But safeguards students against the impacts of the current situation on the continuity of their learning.” 

Notre Dame also launched a $1 million students hardship fund, which it says will provide up to $1000 per student for emergency assistance.

NDA’s package also includes counselling and pastoral services.

by DEANNA CORRIERI 

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