It’s not just you. Balancing work and study is getting harder in Australia.

Australia has experienced progressive higher education policies, a social inclusion agenda and widened tertiary access. This has resulted in a rise in working-class, mature-aged, first-in-family and Indigenous students attending university. But government income support has not been quite so progressive.

In fact, in recent decades, Australian governments have overseen an ongoing reduction in student financial support. Consequences may include increased student dropouts and precarious student mental health, particularly for non-traditional cohorts.

A report on university students’ mental health found “high risk” groups for mental health issues included:

  • students from rural/regional areas and low socioeconomic backgrounds
  • first-in-family students
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • international students
  • and students with a disability

Another study found female students under 34 with financial stresses and in a subsequent year of their degree were at higher risk than other students. Without support, these students were at risk of severe mental illness. Changes to university funding announced in December may add further pressures, including fewer available university places, and graduates needing to repay student loans sooner.

Evidence of students’ hardship is reflected in findings of a recent survey of tertiary social work students.

– Susan Gair

Read more: It’s Not Just You

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