Watch the higher education debate between Christina Hobbs and Senator Katy Gallagher.
ACT Greens senate candidate Christina Hobbs today announced a student welfare package for Canberra's university students. The plan is being launched ahead of a higher education policy debate at the Australian National University on Wednesday.
"We should be support people into higher education, but instead our government is putting up more and more financial barriers," Ms Hobbs said.
"Since the introduction of HECS we've seen a continuous increase in University fees and student debt skyrocket. In Canberra, this has hit students hard.
"In 2015, a survey of ANU students found that almost 30 per cent did not have the financial resources to meet basic living needs - even with income support payments and part-time work.
"I was alarmed to hear that the ANU Student's Association has been forced to offer meals, grocery vouchers and shampoo to students who can't afford these basic essentials on their own. In a city and a country as wealthy as ours, that's appalling.
"We need to ask ourselves, are we still a nation that wants everyone to be able to access university? If the answer is yes, then we need to stop the spiral of scholarship cuts and funding cuts that are placing barriers in-front of the less wealthy," Ms Hobbs said.
The Greens plan will reinstate Start-Up Scholarship grants for low-income students, which were converted to loans under the Abbott-Turnbull government.
"Late last year Labor and the Coalition teamed up to turn the Student Start-Up Scholarships into a loan, lumping over 250,000 low-income students with more HELP debt. These Scholarships were supposed to ensure that everyone could access university regardless of their weakth.
"Our plan will ensure that all full-time students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowances have access to Start-Up Scholarships as a grant, removing the barrier of financial stress that can stop young people from accessing university. That will benefit around 4,700 Canberrans each year.
"This package has been fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, at $1.4 billion per year. By continuing the deficit levy on a permanent basis we will raise $1.55 billion per year, ensuring the HELP debt reduction and Student Start-Up Scholarships being reverted to a grant are cost neutral. This way, students' debt burden is borne by those who can most afford it.
"The Greens consider funding to the higher education sector as an investment in our nation's future - not a cost to be hacked at by the two major parties for short term budgetary repair," Ms Hobbs said.
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