You’d think an estimated 35,000 job losses in public universities in 2021, a growth in student food insecurity and harrowing National Students Safety Survey (NSSS) results would be enough for the government to more strongly care about students and universities. However, as the federal budget has proven by not even mentioning uni students once, it still does not.
It’s been described as the ‘band-aid’ budget by NUS President Georgie Beatty, that is full of ‘short-term, vote-grabbing measures’. Uni students have had to deal with a global pandemic, a rising cost of living and the impending and already-here effects of climate change, which all impact the ability to live a high quality of life — it becoming increasingly difficult to one day own a home or even begin paying off egregious HECS debt. With these factors considered, as Beatty essentially puts it, ‘the budget does incredibly little to meaningfully support students who are crying out for help’.
The government have dedicated $505 million to establish grants for commercialising research projects and $295 million for training opportunities for students and researchers. Although welcomed by the NUS, Beatty also shared disapproval in the insinuation of ‘knowledge for profit’.
Disappointingly, the government also announced a 5.4 per cent cut in government funding per student in real terms in the next year and a 3.6 per cent cut in the following two years. This amasses to a staggering $3 billion lost from 2017-18 to 2025-26.
A one-off payment of $250 was also announced for welfare recipients, including those on Youth Allowance and JobSeeker, where many students find themselves. However, as Beatty adds, this figure is barely enough to ‘pay next week’s rent’. Beatty also mentioned the point that because the age of independence is still ‘absurdly’ at 22, there are ‘tens of thousands of students who are missing out’. So, then where is the help for them? The same question goes for the 130,000 international students who’ve arrived since November, who were also ‘barely mentioned’ in the budget, another example Beatty believes of Morrison ‘letting down the most vulnerable students’.
Beatty puts it well in that students need much more than a budget ‘just designed to get Scott Morrison through the next election’. Students need proper and adequate financial support, immediate action on climate change, a fiercer response to student safety considering the NSSS, and more funding dedicated to the university sector.
We’re the future. Take us seriously.
Article written by Savannah Selimi
Information and quotes provided by NUS Media Release, 29/3/2022.