IN HAPPIER TIMES: Andrew Yager worked as a barista to earn enough money to be able to go to university.
IN HAPPIER TIMES: Andrew Yager worked as a barista to earn enough money to be able to go to university. Scott Carle

Student anger builds

STARTING University in Melbourne on Monday was supposed to be one of the most exciting times of Andrew Yager’s life but thanks to the Federal Government’s proposed changes to Youth Allowance, his academic future is up in the air.

The former Bellingen High Schooler’s plight is being felt by students everywhere and our own Southern Cross University is also feeling the heat of the uncertainty the Rudd Government’s plans have put on student welfare.

Proposed changes to the Youth Allowance qualification means that instead of having to earn more than $19,532 in 18 months to prove their independence, Labor proposes students must now work at least 30 hours per week over 18 months to qualify.

Due to start classes at Swinburne University of Technology in 48 hours time, the 18-year-old worked tirelessly during a gap year last year to ensure he was eligible for Government support.

Now it could all be for nothing.

“I worked six days a week, between 40 and 45 hours a week to make sure I made the threshold for independence,” Mr Yager said yesterday.

“I knew I couldn’t afford to move away from home and support myself and study without government assistance.”

Now living in a one-bedroom apartment with his sister in Melbourne, Mr Yager will have to juggle work and university class time and study to survive away from home.

“Basically I just have to wait and see what happens,” he said.

“In the meantime, I have classes at uni for nine hours, three days a week, and work the other four days.

“It’s stressful – you always have that question in the back of your mind: ‘Am I going to be able to keep living here? Will I survive?’

“It’s like I have to choose between staying studying around work, or quitting uni altogether and work full-time just to be able to live away from home.”

His mother, Michelle Stockton, said it was completely unfair that students made the decision to work and gain independence in good faith were now being punished.

“When will we know what’s happening?” she said.

“Andrew worked very hard to do the right thing and all of a sudden he’s not eligible. I’m sure there are a lot of kids in his situation. Kids who left school in 2008 and had a gap year in 2009 should be exempt from these changes, it’s just not fair.”



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