The Australian University Student Finances 2006 Final Report, a national survey of students in public universities, examines the financial circumstances of postgraduate coursework students and postgraduate research students in detail.

The report builds on the initial findings released in March 2007 by looking more closely at the effects of key student characteristics such as level of study, gender, socioeconomic background, language spoken at home, and living arrangements on the financial circumstances of students.

Key findings relating to full-time postgraduate coursework students

  • Of all cohorts, full-time postgraduate coursework students had the :
  • highest rate of rejection for Youth Allowance / Austudy (16.4 per cent);
  • highest rate of dependence on a partner (34.5 per cent);
  • highest incidence of having used savings to support their studies in 2006 (62.2 per cent);
  • highest rate of deficit budgets (49.1 per cent) and the lowest median income ($10,000); and
  • highest estimated debt upon completion of studies ($27,110).
  • Full-time postgraduate coursework students were the most likely of all groups to agree that “My financial situation is often a source of worry to me,” (62.6 per cent), and that “Supporting my studies puts a great deal of pressure on my parents/partner” (59.4 per cent).
  • 21 per cent of full-time coursework postgraduates were also in full-time employment, and 32.4 per cent had a total annual income of less than $10,000.

Key findings relating to full-time undergraduate students

  • 41.8 per cent of full-time undergraduates and 32.4 per cent of full-time postgraduate coursework students had a total annual income of less than $10,000.
  • Full-time undergraduate students who had attended an independent school were 12 per cent more likely (at 42.2 per cent) to pay all or part of the HECS/fees up front than were those who had attended a government school (29.8 per cent).
  • Full-time undergraduate students who had attended a government school (at 40.7 per cent) were 11 per cent more likely to receive government student income support than those from independent schools (29.6 per cent). 

Key findings relating to female students

Female students were also more likely to have a budget deficit; less likely to have savings for an emergency; and less likely to have paid HECS or full-fees up front. Female students were more likely to be:

  • financially dependent on someone else;
  • two to three times more likely to rely on assistance in the form of cash gifts and help with bills;
  • more likely to rely on free or subsidised services provided by universities and student associations; and
  • less likely to believe they could afford such services if they were not subsidised.
Female students were more likely to have taken out a repayable loan in order to study than were male students, however male students with loans had borrowed much larger amounts.

The report examines student income, assets and reliance on financial and non-monetary support; student expenditure and the levels of repayable loans and overall debt held by students; the patterns of paid employment undertaken by students, and student perceptions of the impact of their financial circumstances on their study.

Key findings relating to Indigenous students

The findings for Indigenous students are reported separately in recognition of the often distinctive family and financial situations under which Indigenous students are studying, and the need to develop policies and programs to raise higher education access, participation and completion rates. The study reveals marked differences in the financial circumstances of Indigenous students compared with non-Indigenous students, including:
  • Indigenous students were far more likely to agree that their financial situation was often a source of worry to them (72.5 per cent) than non-Indigenous students (52.5 per cent) and were almost twice as likely to go without food and other necessities because they could not afford them (25.4 per cent) than were non-Indigenous students (12.8 per cent);
  • A higher proportion of Indigenous students, especially postgraduates, reported that they regularly missed classes or other study activities because of their paid work commitments (undergraduate 29.1 per cent compared with 25.7 per cent of non-Indigenous students; postgraduates 40.3 per cent compared with 26.7 per cent of non- Indigenous students);
  • Indigenous students were more reliant than non-Indigenous students on university and student association subsidised services, such as childcare and counselling;
  • More Indigenous students had taken out a loan in order to study than non-Indigenous students (undergraduates 33.8 per cent compared with 24.4 per cent; postgraduates 34.4 per cent compared with 20.2 per cent) and the average loan taken out by Indigenous postgraduate students in order to study ($8250) was larger than the average loan taken out by non-Indigenous postgraduate students ($6520); and
  • More part-time Indigenous students indicated that they would prefer to study full-time if their financial circumstances permitted it (76.7 per cent) than non-Indigenous part-time students (62.2 per cent), especially postgraduates (78.9 per cent compared with 57.6 per cent).

The full report can be accessed by clicking the link below.

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