WIMMERA students are almost twice as likely to defer from university after finishing year 12 as their city counterparts.
A new report shows 15.6 per cent of post-year 12 Wimmera students in 2013 deferred from university.
The Deferring a University Offer in Victoria report showed 37.3 per cent of students were studying a bachelor degree after year 12 in 2013, 9.3 per cent were studying a certificate or diploma, 14.7 per cent went into an apprenticeship or traineeship, 18.7 per cent were employed and 4 per cent were looking for work.
The report called for more support for rural and regional students to help them overcome significant barriers they faced in accessing higher education.
WorkCo chief executive John Ackland said the statistics did not surprise him.
“The cost for students to go to university is very high,” he said.
“It is expensive for the accommodation alone, let alone the education.”
Mr Ackland said many year 12 students in the Wimmera looked at apprenticeships or traineeships instead of university.
“We have very strong employment through apprenticeships in the region,” he said.
“The amount of Wimmera students going into apprenticeships is among the highest in the state.”
Horsham’s Elisabeth Craig finished year 12 last year, but decided not to go to university straight away.
“I decided to defer basically because I needed a chance to save up extra money,” she said.
“To live in Melbourne is much more expensive than living in Horsham and I just couldn’t afford to do it straight after finishing school.”
Miss Craig said lots of her friends also stayed in the Wimmera to save money first.
"I just couldn’t afford to do it straight after finishing school.”
Federation University Wimmera campus head Geoff Lord said only about 20 per cent of students came straight from school.
“About 80 per cent of students are mature-age students, who are returning to work or looking at upgrading their skills,” he said.
“I think it is healthy for students to take a gap year and a break from studying.”
He said going to university as an adult was an advantage because scores from high school were no longer significant.
Melbourne University researcher John Polesel said factors such as money, university location, travelling long distances and a desire to stay at home were more likely to affect non-metropolitan students.
“They might also find it harder to secure part-time work after relocating,” he said.
“We have a good rural university system but the course offering is limited and therefore more rural and regional students have to relocate.
“Rural and regional students have a double disadvantage associated with both the financial and social capacity of the young person and their family to support relocation.
“Young people from regional areas, while equally capable, are more likely as a result of increased deferral rates to take a longer time to qualify.”