Financial help for uni students on placement floated

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Financial help might be offered to university students completing unpaid placements as part of their degrees, as unions warn failure to provide support will result in greater workforce shortages.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the federal government was considering relief for people with university debts and students undergoing required practical placements in their courses.

“We are looking at both of those things for the budget,” Dr Chalmers told reporters on Monday.

Students studying nursing and teaching are among those required to complete unpaid placements to finish their degrees, and can be left struggling to pay bills especially during the cost of living crisis.

Last week, the prime minister suggested Labor was looking to reduce the rate of student debt indexation to stop money owed growing by more than four per cent in 2024.

Higher Education Loan Program (Help) debts are indexed to inflation, which resulted in a 7.1 per cent jump in people’s debts in 2023.

Dr Chalmers said the government acknowledged that students were under pressure.

“If we can afford to do something to help on that front, that’s obviously something we’ll consider as we finalise the budget,” he said.

The Universities Accord report, released earlier in 2024, recommended the Commonwealth ensure student loans did not outpace wage growth.

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association assistant general secretary Michael Whaites said he strongly recommended paid placements for nursing and midwifery students.

They must carry out up to six months or 800 hours of unpaid clinical work in NSW, which carried immense financial pressure and at times placed students in poverty, he said.

“Failure to address this will continue to contribute to the workforce shortages that currently exist in nursing and midwifery, and this is untenable if we are to continue to deliver high quality health care in our health systems,” Mr Whaites said.

“We hear a lot of stories of people having to ultimately drop out because they’re just not able to maintain the full amount of unpaid work, which can be as much as six to eight weeks in their final year of study, which is devastating after already having undertaken more than two years of study.”

The budget will be handed down on May 14.


Tess Ikonomou
(Australian Associated Press)


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