The Australian Law Students' Association (ALSA) has welcomed the new youth allowance exemption for rural students introduced by the Australian Government this month, but remains skeptical about the overall student income support scheme.
"It is fantastic that the government has recognised the unique position of regional, rural and remote students," said ALSA president, Jonathan Augustus, in a statement. "In the legal sphere these areas suffer from a lack of incentives to obtain and retain employment, so it's nice to see them field a win for a change."
But ALSA still believes that the criterion to obtain the independent youth allowance undermines the impression of support for students that the government broadcasts.
The youth allowance changes require those whose parents' combined income is about $44,165 to work full time for 30 hours a week for at least 18 months to qualify for youth allowance.
While the $44,165 threshold is an increase from $33,300, ALSA points out that it is only slightly higher than the minimum wage and that the criterion creates a "huge black hole" for many low to middle income homes. ALSA feels that it is a change in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.
"Students often take a gap year and then never begin their studies due to lost interest or the need to earn an income much higher than they could possibly attain whilst studying. The new criteria change for youth allowance is simple extending that possibility," Augustus said.
ALSA suggested the government should increase support for all students who endeavour to further their studies, and not create unnecessary rigid obstacles.