Is it studying or juggling at uni?

FOR Lucinda Hutchinson and Damien Tarbox, life as undergraduate students at Southern Cross University (SCU) has always been exciting although not without its share of worries .

But as of last Friday, their anxiety levels have been increasing with the news they're going to pay a lot more to finish their degrees.

SCU has joined 34 of 38 universities who have raised HECS fees. The hike is allowable under the Federal Government's partial deregulation of university fees, which allows them to charge 'variable HECS' and lift course costs by up to 25 per cent.

The university's vice-chancellor, Professor Paul Clark, said in view of the continuing shortfall in government funding, SCU had no responsible choice but to increase HECS by the full 25 per cent.

Lucinda and Damien, who are studying for a Bachelor of Business in Hotel and Catering Management, said there is student concern over balancing study and jobs.

"It's a continual juggle to stay above the line. To make things easier, I took a year off to work so I could afford to make payments during my course," Lucinda said.

"But I still have to fit 12 face-to-face hours of uni, 20 of casual work a week and then leave enough time for study, research and assignments.

"As far as expenses go each week, we both spend $104 for on-campus accommodation and $80 for food. Then there is things like petrol, annual student charges, study guides, personal costs, transport and entertainment.

"Most weeks I manage but some people miss lectures for work, and find it difficult to find subjects that fit in with their hours of employment."

Damien has deferred all his HECS payments and has been working since his first year to become eligible for help from Centrelink but says it's still difficult at times.

"The worst is text books. You're looking at around $500 each semester, so there is truth in the idea that students survive on two-minute noodles," he said.

"The real concern is with what will happen later on in life. I'll have to hold off making any large purchases."

Neville Neale, the student representative on the university council, says the SCU is looking towards a pro-active role to reduce up-front costs by helping students with gen- eral expenses.

What can university students do to find a balance between study and money? Next Monday, The Coffs Coast Advocate looks at the services available that aim to reduce the stress and financial hardships suffered.

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