Around two-thirds of students have reported incomes below the poverty line as student debt soars by almost 30 per cent in just six years according to the findings of the University Student Finances in 2012 report.
According to Universities Australia's comprehensive report, soaring personal debt levels - that have risen from $28,861 in 2006 to $37,217 in 2012 - have also resulted in far greater levels of financial distress among students, with more than two-thirds of respondents now reporting worries about their financial situation.
The level of financial distress is even greater amongst students from low socio-economic backgrounds and indigenous students, where it jumps to over three quarters and four out of five students respectively.
The survey also finds that the financial demands for almost half of all university students outstrip their earnings.
Other findings include:
- The number of students who believe that the requirements of external work negatively affect their performance at university has jumped 10 percentage points to 50 per cent since 2006.
- Over a quarter of employed full-time undergraduates work over 20 hours per week.
- Two-thirds of full-time domestic undergraduate students have incomes of less than $20,000 a year, below the poverty line, including 21 per cent who have incomes of less than $10,000.
- Half of all undergraduate students rely on some form of financial support from their family.
These new findings build on previously announced highlights from the report including that: 80 per cent of full time undergraduates work an average of 16 hours a week; a third of students report regularly missing classes because of work and 17 per cent said they regularly went without food or other necessities.
"This report clearly shows that financial stress on university students is increasing," said Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia, the peak body representing Australia's universities.
"While the impact of this on dropout rates and future enrolments is unclear, it is of sufficient concern to justify close monitoring - particular in the context of meeting the government's goal to have 20 per cent of students from low SES backgrounds enrolled by 2020," she said.
The survey drew responses from 11,761 domestic, international, undergraduate and postgraduate students Australia-wide. The last time this survey was undertaken was 2006.
Authored by: Emmaline Bexley, Suzanne Daroesman, Sophie Arkoudis and Richard James