Live now, pay later - USC wants to add rent cost to HECS
THE University of the Sunshine Coast is leading a push to allow students to add accommodation expenses to their HECS debt.
The proposal is part of an action plan put together by members of the Regional Universities Network.
USC vice-chancellor Greg Hill said the action would become the framework for lobbying of politicians during the lead-up to the September federal election.
"We do have a wish list and I think one of the most interesting ones is to provide students from regional locations with an opportunity to put accommodation costs on HECS, much the same as their fees," Prof Hill said.
"If you are living at home and going to the local university it isn't such a big deal, but when you think of where most of our students come from - places like Hervey Bay or Kilcoy - it is a real effort and a lot of them can't afford to go to university.
"We know it is a real struggle for our students who work more hours than the national average, because they simply just have to.
"We want to rally both sides of politics and make sure they are aware of what is going on in regional universities and hopefully they will pick up some suggestions to put into policies."
The Regional Universities Network includes Central Queensland University, Southern Cross University, University of Ballarat, University of New England and University of Southern Queensland. It is dedicated to enhancing the role regional universities play in contributing to the economic, social, cultural and environmental development of their regions.
Prof Hill said there was enormous potential for the USC to grow, with a catchment of more than 300,000 people on the Sunshine Coast.
"Our biggest challenge up until now has been trying to scramble to get buildings up so we can grow the university," he said. "A lot of the buildings are built with borrowed money from the Queened Treasury.
"Once you take out a significant loan you have to pay that back and that could better be used for teaching or community engagement, so having access to funds to assist with infrastructure is vital."