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Regional students to benefit from $96m educational push

By Tammy Laval

REGIONAL students stand a better chance at graduating from university and using new skills near their hometown under a $96 million cash injection.

In a bid to help close the gap between regional and metropolitan graduation rates, the Federal Government will fund more regional university places and relax youth allowance rules for regional students.

Also, top graduates in all fields, such as science and engineering, will be encouraged to consider teaching careers outside metro areas.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing city people were two to three times more likely to hold a university degree than their regional counterparts.

Torrens University’s Social Atlas of Australia data showed 46% of Brisbane 17-year-olds were enrolled in higher education. In regional cities that number was between 20% and 33%.

Last night’s budget promised to attract the best and brightest into education and get them teaching regional kids.

“In order to ensure regional and rural students have access to better educational opportunities in the communities in which they live, the government is providing funding to develop alternative employment-based pathways for high achieving graduates from a variety of fields to become teachers,” budget documents read.

Some experts suggested more experienced teachers from alternative backgrounds could increase educational outcomes in regional communities while others believed incentives could attract our best students to teaching.

James Cook University’s Shaun Belward told NewsRegional the shift would require convincing strong science and mathematics students that teaching was a good career option.

The Head of Maths said too many good students were told to do medicine or engineering at university instead of teaching.

“So there’s a huge challenge there in getting them in the door in the first place,” he said during the campaign.

Another $28 million will help expand access to enabling courses and other sub-bachelor tertiary degrees. Regionally-based universities are among the nation’s biggest enabling course providers but they will have to compete for the extra positions.

An extra 185 new annual bachelor degree places will be provided, at a $14 million cost, at six Regional Study Hubs.

The government announced those hubs at the previous budget but their locations have still not been announced.

The budget predicts that number will grow to 500 new annual bachelor degree places in 2022.

The Youth Allowance parental income threshold will increase $10,000 to $160,000 for regional families from January 1 and an extra $10,000 will be added to that limit for each additional child. Relaxing the test will cost the budget $53.9 million.

Social Services Minister Dan Tehan said changes to assessment timing would give regional students certainty about whether they were eligible for the allowance.

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