A WIMMERA secondary school has called for increased financial support for regional students pursuing further studies.
Horsham College pathways leading teacher Chris Wallis said the cost of relocating for tertiary studies was a severe disadvantage for regional students.
“The cost factor of them having to live independently in the city, as well as paying for higher education, is beyond the capabilities of many people,” he said. “About 30 per cent of students defer their university offers, mainly for cost reasons.”
He said students who deferred spent their time working so they could afford the shift to higher education.
Mr Wallis said Wimmera initiatives such as the careers expo had opened students’ eyes to what was achievable within their communities and further afield.
Federation University Western campuses head Geoffrey Lord said 49 new Diploma of Nursing and 23 new Bachelor of Nursing students started at the campus this year.
“A new group of Bachelor of Education students will also be starting mid-year,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on our high number of low socio-economic and first generation students, as well as mid-career advancing and career changing students.”
Mr Wallis said the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development had also helped keep students in school.
He said the Wimmera had benefited from almost $80,000 in grants, particularly to assist migrant, indigenous and disabled students.
Investment in video conferencing had also meant Victorian Certificate of Education students could study subjects such as specialist mathematics, which might not be available to them at their school.
Mr Wallis said he believed the Wimmera’s students received high-quality educations, but inequality between regional and metropolitan students continued to be an issue.
His comments followed Victorian Auditor-General John Doyle’s report on Access to Education for Rural Students.
Released on Thursday, the document concluded the gap in performance between rural students and their city-dwelling peers had persisted and showed no signs of narrowing.
Performance indicators included completion rates, academic achievement and university attendance.
Minister for Education Martin Dixon said the department had accepted Mr Doyle’s recommendations for improving access to education for rural students.
“There is more work that needs to be done, and the department is developing a new rural and regional education plan to improve educational outcomes in regional communities,” he said.