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Regional tertiary students and living away from home: a priceless experience that costs too much?

Introduction

Changes in government policies over recent years have increasingly moved tertiary education in Australia to a 'user pays' (Birrell, Dobson, Rapson & Smith n.d.) model, giving rise to concern that greater numbers of students are forced to live in poverty in order to complete their tertiary education (Marginson & Considine 2000; Withers 2002). While there are many definitions of poverty, the definition of relative poverty used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics "implies that poverty is defined not in terms of a lack of sufficient resources to meet basic needs, but rather as lacking the resources required to be able to participate in the lifestyle and consumption patterns enjoyed by other Australians" (Saunders 1996:1). Many studies have shown that university students are experiencing increasing levels of relative poverty as they struggle to meet the financial commitments of gaining a tertiary education (Frydenberg & Rowley 1998; LTU 2000; Newton & Turale 2000; Tao, Pratt & Pancerl 2000; Turale 1998, 2001). It is not known to what extent financial hardship impinges on students' academic achievement.

While a great deal of research has been devoted to the transition from primary school to secondary school (eg: Anthanasou 2001; Cole 2000; Rice 1998), the transition from secondary school to university has received relatively less attention. Transition to university can be challenging and can be associated with social, emotional, academic and financial stresses (Tao, Pratt & Pancerl, 2000). A recent review of ten years of national data gathering on this issue identified the need for ongoing and increased collaboration between schools and universities on preparing students for university (Krause, Hartley, James & McInnis, 2005). Estimates of the annual living expenses for university students are around $AUD 14,000 (excluding tuition) (University of Southern Queensland 2003). Information regarding how much the average university student can afford per year is limited. However, a recent study undertaken at La Trobe University (LTU) in 2000 found that the average annual student income (including wages, government benefits and parental support) was approximately $AUD 11,800 (LTU, 2000) which is clearly short of the $AUD 14,000 required for living expenses. Similar figures were reported from a recent Federal Government study into poverty (Australian Senate 2004) which reported the mean income of an individual university student needs to be $AUD 12,513 per annum. This gap between cost and income may explain why some students start university and later discontinue (Turale & Lloyd, n.d.).

Approximately 54% of university students in Australia are school leavers (Dobson 2001), however it is recognised that this percentage varies greatly from university to university. Interestingly, a recent Department of Education, Science and Training report (DEST n.d.) showed that the perceived cost of university was found to be a major deterrent for both high and low socio-economic status (SES) school leavers, yet 39% of low SES school leavers felt that university fees would prevent them from attending university. Further, it was found that higher education is seen as less personally relevant by rural or geographically isolated students, particularly those from lower or middle SES backgrounds (DEST n.d.). A recent report by the University of Ballarat (a regional university in Victoria) showed that 60% of enrolled students were first generation university students (Cox 2005). Additionally, data from LTU (Bendigo campus) showed that in 2003 11% of enrolled students had parents with tertiary degrees, compared to 18% on non-regional campuses (LTU 2003a). This indicates that from an early stage, rural/regional school leavers differ from other school leavers. Recognising this and taking into account the well-documented disadvantage attached to some aspects of living in rural and regional Australia (Baum 1998; McManus & Pritchard 2000; National Rural Health Policy Forum 1999), the economic well-being of rural university students is worthy of close inspection.

It is difficult to make generalisations about rural university students given that there is not a national database specifically about them and the issues they confront. However, data from a regional faculty at one large university, such as LTU's largest regional campus at Bendigo, should at least be indicative. LTU is comprised of seven campuses throughout Victoria, including Bundoora (the largest campus located in metropolitan Melbourne), City, Bendigo, Shepparton, Beechworth, Albury-Wodonga, Mildura and Mount Buller. La Trobe University Bendigo (LTUB) is situated in the regional city of Bendigo which has a population of approximately 90,000 and is 150km north west of Melbourne. According to Student Services at LTUB, in 2003 there were 4167 students enrolled with 96% of these studying on campus. Eighty-three percent of students enrolled in 2003 came from a regional Victorian area (LTU 2003a).

Housing

One of the main issues faced by students attending rural and regional universities is the cost of housing. Hillman and Marks (2002) highlight that housing costs pose particular problems for students who move from/or within rural and regional areas to study. In a 2000 LTU study it was found that 56% of Bendigo respondents had relocated in order to attend the Bendigo campus. With such a high percentage having to relocate, it follows that these students will be new to Bendigo and will most likely be unable to live at home. With a private rental vacancy rate in Bendigo of less than 2% (which is lower than both Melbourne and other regional areas; National Library of Australia 2003) finding suitable accommodation is very challenging (Bendigo Advertiser 2003a). Students seeking private accommodation in Bendigo also face high private rental costs which add to their financial hardships (Bendigo Advertiser 2003b). Whilst there is a variety of on-campus accommodation available at LTUB, demand always far exceeds supply (T.Galea. 2003, personal communication, July 30)

Work

In order to meet the high costs associated with rent and other financial commitments many university students take on part-time or full-time work in order to support themselves throughout their university years (McInnes, James & Hartley 2000). A 2005 review of ten years of Australian research on the experience of tertiary education (Krause et al., 2005) showed that the overall proportion of fulltime students in paid employment had risen from 51.3% to 54.9% during the period 1999-2004. In addition to this, a recent report commissioned by the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee (AVCC) entitled Paying Their Way (Long & Heydon 2001) provides substantial evidence that many students are struggling financially and as a result many of them are engaging in increased hours of employment to support themselves.

The LTU study (2000) allowed some general conclusions to be drawn about students' means of financial support. Approximately two-thirds of LTU students cited paid employment as their main source of income. Twenty-seven percent of respondents worked 6-10 hours a week, 15% worked 16-20 hours a week and 10% worked between 26 and 35 hours per week. This is consistent with the DEST report (Krause et. al. 2005) that showed 32% of respondents working 6-10 hours, 17% working 16-20 hours and 5% working more than 26 hours per week in 2004. Overall, more than half of the students surveyed in these studies reported a need to work in order to survive while studying. Curtis (2002) found that 59% of students in her American study were working part-time during term-time. She also reported that the majority of students perceived that working had a detrimental effect on their academic studies and a quarter of them considered that they could not remain at university without their term-time jobs.

However, working while studying can have positive effects and employment does not always affect studies negatively (Mortimer 1998, cited in Robelen, 2003). Obviously there are some benefits for students in being in the workforce, such as the ability to draw on practices from their part time jobs in their future employment (Loizou 2000) and learning to manage professional relationships with their employers and colleagues (Mizen 1992). However, there is general consensus in the literature that being employed for more than 20 hours a week has a negative effect on students' academic success (Bracey 1998; Robelen 2003). The most recent Australian research (Applegate & Daly 2003) suggests that participating in paid employment for long hours each week has a small negative effect on a student's average marks. This is interesting to note, given that 24% of Bendigo students worked 21-50 hours per week (LTU 2000).

Rural students

The study at LTU (2000) identified that university students in rural and regional areas were the most financially disadvantaged regardless of the campus at which they were studying. It is hard to pin point what circumstances make rural students worse off than metropolitan students, however coming from families who are 'asset rich and cash poor' could offer some insight, despite this, some changes have been made to facilitate access to Centrelink payments for students of families involved in primary productions and those in receipt of Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payments (http://www.centrelink. gov.au/internet/internet.nsf/individuals/st_index.htm). In rural communities, families' assets are often tied up in farming machinery and land, rendering them (and their children) ineligible for government assistance, even though there is little cash to spare (Lawrence & Gray 2000; Lockie 2000).

A qualitative study by Turale (1998) focussing specifically on a rural/regional university examined the experiences of rurally based undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Ballarat who were living below the poverty line. One of the main findings of this study was that students who lived away from home perceived themselves to be suffering academically and emotionally compared to those still living at home. A particular concern was that students expected to be in some state of deprivation whilst studying (Turale 1998). Building on Turale's earlier (1998) study, Newton and Turale (2000) examined the effects of poverty at the same university. One of the major findings of this study was that young males not living at home with their parents were most likely to be living in poverty. Other findings included that students incur significant debts in the process of undertaking a university degree and although many students are working, this does not guard them against the effects of poverty. This was recently supported by Curtis (2002) and Applegate and Daly (2003).

There is sufficient evidence that a significant proportion of university students are affected by poverty and that rural and regional students are more affected than their metropolitan counterparts (LTU 2000; Turale 1998; Turale & Newton 2000). Despite the fact that there is some evidence that type of residence has a role to play in the financial well being of rural university students (Turale 1998; Turale & Newton 2000) no specific examination of this important variable has been undertaken. The aim of this study was to explore and describe in detail the economic well-being of LTUB students, with particular emphasis on the role type of residence plays in the experience of economic hardship for the students.

Method

A large-scale self report survey comprising both qualitative and quantitative items was distributed to a convenience sample of 680 university students representing approximately 16% of students enrolled at the LTUB in July/August 2003. Students attending classes in most major courses in first, second, third and fourth year levels were targeted. The survey was distributed to students in varied classes over a one-month period. The survey used was the "Financial Status and Well-Being Survey" (FSWBS) which was adapted (with permission from LTU's Academic Development Unit) for this study from the survey instrument used in the earlier LTU (2000) study. The survey also included a section regarding the coping strategies used by students 'COPE' scale (Carver et. al., cited in Weinman et. al., 1995). The FSWBS comprised five major sections, as follows;

* Section 1 'Information about you'

* Section 2 'Your experience of University study during 2003'

* Section 3 'Coping with financial stresses

* Section 4 'Identifying what could be done to overcome financial problems'

* Section 5 Additional comments and expression of thanks.

This paper is concerned with data derived from Sections 1, 2 and 4 only.

Completed surveys could be returned to several secure return boxes situated outside lecture theatres, classrooms and in the Student Association. The project had the approval of the Human Research Ethics Committee of La Trobe University, Bendigo. Quantitative data analysis was completed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and the qualitative data was analysed thematically.

Results

The results will be presented in three parts. Firstly the results for the whole sample will be presented. Then a comparison of students living at home compared to those living in private accommodation and university accommodation will be made. Finally the qualitative findings will be presented.

The response rate was 72% with a total of 680 surveys distributed and 489 returned.

The composition of respondents in terms of year level was broadly representative of the whole university population and is shown in Table 1.

Respondents ranged in age from 1740 years with a mean of 23 years (SD 7.3) which is broadly representative of the age range of the students enrolled (La Trobe University Statistics 2003). Overseas students made up 3.5% of respondents which reflects the overseas enrolment at the Bendigo campus of 3.8% in 2003 (La Trobe University Statistics 2003). Just over two thirds (67.9%) of the respondents were female which is slightly higher than the percentage of female students enrolled in 2003 (58%) (La Trobe University Statistics 2003).

Type of residence

Just over half (56.65%) of the students lived in private accommodation (including houses, units, caravan parks etc) and the remainder lived at home or in university accommodation (20.85% and 21.50% respectively). A small number of students indicated that they were homeless (1%). The majority of students shared a dwelling with 1 or 2 adults (21.4 and 31.8 respectively) and over 75% did not share a dwelling with any children.

Travelling to University

Students travelled a mean of 11.9 kilometres (SD 28) to university (one way), however the mode was 1 kilometre. The largest distance for a student to travel on a daily basis was 175 kilometres. Just over 5% of students surveyed had to travel over 70 kilometres to attend LTUB. Twenty five percent of respondents reported that they missed some classes because they could not afford to travel to campus.

Food and groceries

Over half (52.7%) indicated that financial hardship "sometimes" prevented them from eating adequately, with 4.1% reporting that this was "always" an issue. Thirty-six percent of respondents said that they "sometimes" went without food/meals/groceries due to financial constraints, while 0.8% "always" went without.

Medical/Dental care

Of the total sample 44.2% of respondents felt that they could afford adequate dental care, while 62.9% felt they could afford adequate medical care. About half of students (49.4%) felt financial hardship "sometimes" negatively affected their health while 8.2% reported their health was "often" negatively affected by financial hardship. Close to 11% of students surveyed did not know if they were eligible for a Health Care Card and 37.3% indicated that they did not have a Health Care Card.

Educational supplies

Only 34.6% of respondents said they "never" had to go without university supplies/ books/stationery due to financial constraints. The amount spent on course materials/ fees (excluding HECS) per semester ranged quite dramatically from $AUD 0-$3000.00. However the mean was $579.00 (SD $AUD 547.80) and the mode was $AUD 500.00. The amount spent on practicum/clinical practise/industry or field placement also varied greatly from $AUD 0-$2000.00. The mean spent was $216.00 (SD $AUD 324.00).

A little over half of the students surveyed (52.5%) had estimated the cost of their university study before their commencement. Of those that did provide an estimate, 60.2% thought that university would cost less than it had cost them already. Just over half (52.6%) had saved some money towards university prior to commencement.

Employment

Just over half of respondents (53.2%) reported working between 0-5 hours per week, 40.2% worked between 5-20 hours and 6.6% of students surveyed worked more than 20 hours per week. The hourly rate (before tax) that respondents were paid ranged from $AUD 8.00 to $AUD 32.00, with the mean being $AUD 14.90 an hour (SD $AUD 4.10). Forty-three percent of students surveyed did not work or only worked in the semester breaks. Of those who did work, over half (55%) sometimes had to miss classes/lectures/ tutorials and other services on campus to attend their employment.

Financial well-being

In rating their financial well-being, close to two thirds of the total sample (63.2%) placed financial well-being as "most important" with a further (14%) rating it as "very important" (49.2%). Sixty-four percent of students surveyed indicated that they could "only afford some" books and materials related to study, while 3.7% said they "cannot afford any".

When asked if their financial circumstances had led them to consider withdrawing from any subjects/courses at LTUB, over one quarter (27.5%) of students said "yes". Two percent of respondents had previously had their enrolment suspended at LTUB due to inability to pay study bills. The same percentage believed that their enrolment would be suspended in the year the study was conducted.

Thirty-eight percent of the students surveyed believed that their financial situation was making them less successful in their studies. When asked to rate how they felt they were coping financially, 4.5% said "very poorly" and 19.5% said "poorly". Nearly half (47.7%) rated their current ability to cope financially as "just average"

Living in Poverty

A set of criteria based on items in the questionnaire was used to determine what percentage and which students were experiencing relative poverty. The criteria used in this study were very similar to those used by Newton and Turale (2000) when they were defining their 'cultural criteria' for poverty. The operational definition of 'living in poverty' was: being homeless and/or responding positively to all of the following criteria.

* Financial hardship prevents them from eating adequately "always" or "often"

* Being unable to afford adequate dental care

* Being unable to afford adequate medical/health care

* Responding "poorly" or "very poorly" with regard to how they felt they were coping financially

According to this definition, 22 respondents were living in relative poverty. Approximately two-thirds of this subgroup was female (which closely resembles the larger sample) and slightly over half were enrolled in second year. Twelve were renting privately and 4 were classified as homeless. In addition to this, 16 of this subgroup indicated that it was necessary for them to relocate in order to attend LTUB.

Financial well-being as a function of type of residence

Comparisons were run between those living at home, those in private accommodation and those residing in university accommodation to examine the relationship between type of residence and key well-being variables. Chi-squared analyses showed significant differences between the subgroups in relation to the following variables; having adequate heating ([chi square] = 10.68; p = 0.005), being able to afford to run heating ([chi square] = 80.54; p=0.00), eating adequately ([chi square] = 21.88; p = 0.00) and being able to afford medical ([chi square] = 29.42; p = 0.00) and dental care ([chi square] = 29.54; p = 0.00). The biggest differences between the groups were in relation to being able to afford adequate medical care and adequate heating. Eighty-three percent of those living at home and 41% of those living in university accommodation reported being able to afford adequate medical care. In comparison, only 18% of those living in private accommodation reported being able to afford adequate medical care. All of these comparisons showed that students who lived at home were significantly better off.

Only 13% of those living at home had considered withdrawing from LTUB compared to 34.7% of those renting privately. When students were asked how they felt they were coping financially, only 6% of those living at home said "very poorly" or "poorly", compared to 34.1% of those living in a private residence.

Just over 7% of those who lived in a private residence reported that their financial situation "always" adversely affected their ability to eat adequately, whereas no student living at home reported this. Sixty-four percent of those living at home felt that financial hardship "never" affected their health, whereas only 31.6% of those renting privately repotted this.

Table 3 provides a comparison for sources of financial support received "often", by students living at home and students renting privately.

As can be seen in Table 3, those renting privately received much lower financial support in all areas except in terms of receiving an allowance, compared with those living at home.

Qualitative findings

Respondents were given the opportunity to write additional comments to reinforce their views or to identify issues that they felt were not covered in the survey. Several themes were identified from these responses and are summarised below.

Parental support

A recurring theme was the notion that parents play a vital role in the support of their child who is studying at university. Students recognised that living at home was an advantage to them with respect to financial well-being. One student (quoted verbatim) observed,

"Although living at home means I have so little financial concerns, if I had wanted to go to a non-Bendigo uni I wouldn't have been able to afford it as my parents' earnings are above the threshold for government assistance. It's not enough to support me at uni and two other siblings."

Female, 20, living at home

A concern which is particularly relevant to those from rural/regional areas, is the issue of their parents being 'asset rich' but still not being able to afford to pay for their child to study at university.

"Living on a hobby farm at home, all equipment is an asset in parents' name and so I can't get Centrelink payments. A lot of friends are also ineligible for a Centrelink allowance cause of parents' income, yet get no help from parents."

Male, 20, living at home

Placements

Students who had to complete clinical placements and field experience felt they were severely financially disadvantaged due to the high costs involved.

"Having no financial supplement or help when going on placement. I was in Melbourne for 7 weeks and it cost me a lot of money!!!"

Female, 24, private residence

"Clinical placements are far costlier than I ever imagined. I had to leave one job because I couldn't maintain it over clinical and exam periods."

Female, 21, living at home

Accommodation difficulties

As identified in the literature review, the rental situation often fails to meet demand and this notion was echoed by the students' comments in relation to accommodation available.

"The uni does not have enough accommodation for the students, as a lot of students are left stranded at the beginning of year and then resort to expensive accommodation."

Female, 24, university accommodation

"I had to move back home, which means travelling 1 hour to an hour an a half everyday. I couldn't afford a new bond and rent as I lost $1200 in the first semester."

Female, 19, living at home

Employment challenges

It was not uncommon for respondents to have to quit their jobs due to their inability to study and work simultaneously. This appears to be because of the class contact hours that university requires.

"Just lost my job due to too many class hours."

Male, 18, university accommodation

"Feel pressured to work but it is hard to get a job that is flexible with study/class time table."

Male, 21, living at home

Some students felt that their working in paid employment disadvantaged them academically.

"It is too hard to put in 100% in subjects as I am at uni all day, then have to work some nights and all weekend."

Female, 18, living at home

"Financially we cope alright, but that's only because I put my studies aside and go to work. If I didn't work, I couldn't go to uni."

Male, 20, private residence

Emotional stresses

An important message in the respondents' comments was that financial stress/hardship was not an isolated factor, but rather it impinged on other facets of their lives.

"Sometimes poverty is not just financial. Moving to a new area knowing no one results in social poverty, until new friends are met."

Female, 23, private residence

Discussion

The aim of this study was to explore and describe the economic well-being of students enrolled at LTUB with particular emphasis on the relationship between type of residence and key well-being indicators. Our findings suggest that type of residence is related to the experience of financial hardship, particularly for those who are living in private residences. In addition, we found that there is a small but significant proportion of students on the Bendigo campus living in poverty. It is notable that over half of those living in poverty lived in private rental accommodation. Direct comparison to other studies is not possible given the different methodologies and research aims but some broad comparisons can be made.

It is well documented that students from rural areas are under-represented in higher education and that they face a number of barriers to their participation, including; high costs, lack of access to quality telecommunications, minimal social and support networks when moving to larger cities, coupled with inadequate income support and a lack of a well developed learning culture (Department of Transport and Regional Services, 2002). This lack of a well developed learning culture is supported by recent evidence that regional universities have a considerable number of first generation tertiary students (Cox 2005; LTU 2003a).

This study supports Newton and Turale's (2000) assertion that living away from home is detrimental to a students' protection against poverty. This has implications for the sustainability of rural and regional universities. Rural students would be further disadvantaged if rural and regional educational institutions were removed or more difficult to access, forcing students to attend metropolitan campuses, and in so doing to live away from home or forgo a tertiary education altogether because relocation to a large capital city is simply beyond their family's financial means. It is clear that those renting privately are disadvantaged with regard to the financial and in-kind support available to them, compared to those students who live at home. Those who live at home have more sources of financial support, and are more likely to report that they have adequate medical and dental care and access to food than those who rent privately.

The Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS)/Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) are designed to create a 'level playing field', user-pays system for higher education (DEST n.d.). However, these schemes do not cover the cost of living whilst studying which results in many parents having to subsidise students' cost of living during tertiary study. This subsidisation becomes less likely when students have to move away from home to study which is much more likely if you live in a non-metropolitan area. Thus whilst schemes like HECS-HELP are devised with the aim of achieving equity this may not be the outcome for many students living away from home.

Student economic hardship is not limited to those 4.5% identified as living in poverty. The picture at LTUB in general is one of many students experiencing financial hardships. Several variables influence the students' financial well-being at university. Only 52% of students estimated the cost of studying at LTUB prior to their enrolment, and of those that did so, 60% thought that it would cost less than it already has. Recent research has indicated that financial responsibilities and employment commitments are a reason for student deferrals (LTU 2003b), and this study shows a lack of a clear understanding on students' part about the financial realities of tertiary study. If students and/or their parents are not saving money towards university costs, then of course students are going be under pressure. It should be noted that this pressure will probably impact on parents too, but this remains to be considered by future researchers.

Prior to commencing, only 53% of students had saved some money for university. Given the overall high cost of attending university, even apart from the HECS-HELP costs which can be deferred (General Service Fee, Course materials), this low level of financial preparation is of concern. In the USA, parents save for their child's college expenses from an early age with most banks offering specially designed accounts for this purpose such as 'American Funds' and 'Smartmoney' accounts (American Funds 2003; Smartmoney 2003). A similar scheme is available to parents in Australia through the Australian Scholarships Group, an independent, not-for-profit friendly society who offer savings plans to fund secondary and tertiary education. However, one of the main drawbacks to this scheme is that children must be enrolled in the program before their tenth birthday (Australian Scholarships Group n.d.). It may be useful for universities, parents and possibly banks to collaborate to implement savings plan options that would lessen the costs and stresses associated with university education. This plan would take time to evolve and implement but could play a major role in aiding and possibly encouraging school leavers to continue on to university. In addition, this may decrease the financial stress that some students experience after they have started university. Furthermore, the value of introducing these ideas much earlier, perhaps in secondary school, should be considered. While such plans would benefit students, however, they may encourage future governments to increase the 'user-pays' emphasis in tertiary education and move the costs even more to students and their parents.

It is of concern to note that 1% of students surveyed describe themselves as homeless. A recent newspaper article (Bendigo Advertiser 2003b) highlighted the lack of suitable and affordable accommodation available to university students in the Bendigo area with some students resorting to sleeping in their cars. Perhaps not surprisingly there is virtually no information on the LTUB website or brochures available anywhere on campus discussing the issue of homelessness, although the issue of student poverty is well recognised and a 'food bank' service is provided. Regional universities need to recognise this as a risk-factor in their students and take steps to both identify and assist such students.

It is particularly concerning that many students cannot afford adequate dental and medical care. In terms of medical assistance, there needs to be increased knowledge of services, times and costs with regard to Campus Nurse and Medical Service. This is not the only solution as the medical service on campus is not available after hours. Policy makers and governments need play a significant role in this as well. The falling bulk-billing rates across Australia, and in rural and regional areas in particular, make it more expensive for all, not just students, to afford adequate medical care (Doctor's Reform Society of Australia 2003; Nancy 1992; Strasser 2003; Zinn 1997). In addition, because the majority of LTUB students have had to relocate to Bendigo, some may find it difficult to gain access to a new practitioner. Thus access to medical care may be further restricted.

Lack of access to affordable dental care is not unique to students has affected rural populations and low-income people in general for many years (Australian Dental Association 2003; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2001). Government policies changes and more funding are key aspects to reversing this inequity. The benefits of prevention and early intervention in health are well documented (Baum, 1998; Talbot & Verrinder 2005).

Whilst there was only a very small number of international student respondents in this study it is important to note that this subgroup can face distinctive financial issues including higher housing costs and greater difficulties finding employment in a provincial city. Some international students are part of a government funded program which may protect them from poverty, however, many international students are self-funded and often have higher out-of-pocket expenses for transport and medical costs as they are not eligible for concessions.

Limitations

This study was conducted on only one regional campus of one university. No information was collected identifying which courses/schools participants were enrolled in. Gathering this information would have served two purposes; ensuring that the sample was representative and enabling an exploration of the differences between courses, particularly with regard to money spent on course materials and clinical placements. These issues should be considered by future researchers. As this study was cross-sectional in design we cannot draw causal inferences about the relationship between type of residence and economic well-being.

Conclusion

This study contributes to the understanding of student poverty on a regional campus and suggests that type of residence is a key marker for student poverty and financial hardship. It has documented many of the issues faced by students including accommodation difficulties, employment challenges, emotional stresses, and reduced access to medical and dental care. Poverty and financial hardship are important issues for regional students. Financial hardship impacts on many aspects of student life and is often compounded by the fact that many students attending rural and regional campuses have to relocate to attend university. This relocation has significant financial impacts and is often exacerbated by the limited housing and employment opportunities available. This study seeks to raise awareness of important inequities experienced by rural regional university students in Australia.

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Table 1: Year level of respondents

Year level n %

First 238 48.8%
Second 121 24.8%
Third 114 23.4%
Fourth 15 3.1%

Table 2: Type of residence

Type of residence n %

Living at home 102 20.85%
Private accommodation 277 56.65%
University accommodation 105 21.50%
Homeless 5 1.0%
Total 489 100%

Table 3: Sources of support received "often"--living at home and
renting privately

Source of support living at home renting privately

Free rent 72.7% 3.6%
Free food/meals 62.6% 3.1%
Allowance 25.3% 29%
Payment of bills 38.4% 4.6%
Provision of car/transport 42% 10.8%
Money for university 24.2% 16.8%
Money for books 27% 11.7%
Free equipment 48.5% 6.7%
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Author:Lewis, Christie; Dickson-Swift, Virginia; Talbot, Lyn; Snow, Pamela
Publication:Australian Journal of Social Issues
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 22, 2007
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