Saturday, July 3, 2010

Increase in poorer students

UNIVERSITIES have swung open their doors to the country's poor, who are the fastest growing student demographic, Senate estimates has heard.
In the wake of the global financial crisis and publicity over universities' recruitment push, university enrolments are up 10 per cent overall this year, federal education officials have reported.

Applications by low socioeconomic status students are up 9.4 per cent, those from medium SES up 7.6 per cent and from high SES up 4.7 per cent, reported higher education group manager Julie Randall.

The development will be welcomed by the government, which has set a modest target to increase the numbers of poor in universities to help counter a projected shortfall in the professionals needed to run the economy in future.

"Applications have not risen by anything like this rate in recent years, and so it is a combination of the demand-driven system and the impetus provided by the economic times," tertiary youth and international manager Colin Walters told estimates.

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Applications from the other key equity group - country students - have grown 8.4 per cent compared with 6.7 per cent for city students, Ms Randall said.

The head of the National Centre for Student Equity, Trevor Gale, said the new figures were "fantastic", but well short of lifting low SES numbers from 15 per cent to the desired 20 per cent target by 2020.

University enrolments of middle and high SES students were already at "saturation point", and it was logical that any new growth had to come from the ranks of low SES students, he said.

Meanwhile, QUT researchers will announce today that they have been able to reverse dropout rates by 20 per cent to 25 per cent by employing undergraduates to intervene with at-risk first-year students.

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