Rise in students from regional areas seeking a degree

MORE people from regional and remote areas and struggling backgrounds are studying at university.

The Federal Government's 2012 enrolment data, released on Monday, shows a 7% rise in the number of students from the most remote areas of Australia seeking a degree.

It also reveals a 6.5% rise in regional students (closer to major towns) - equating to more than 5000 extra students from either remote or regional areas in 2012 than 2011.

But regional students are not the only ones starting a degree, with a 9.1% jump in enrolments from low-income backgrounds in 2012.

Higher Education Minister Kim Carr said the figures showed government assistance, such as HECS loans, were "having a real impact out in the community".

He said the participation rate for domestic undergraduates was at a record high of 17.1%, on track to achieve the government's "20% by 2020" target.

Total enrolments have also risen 3% from 2011 to 2012, with more than 1.2 million people now studying at universities around the country.

Mr Carr said social status or income should never determine whether or not people can get a degree, and that university entry should be based on hard work, ability and equal opportunity.

However, the enrolment figures come after a report from Universities Australia revealing poverty among students had soared nearly 30% in just six year.

The UA Student Finances 2012 report showed nearly two-thirds of all university students reported income below the poverty line.

It also revealed personal debt among students has soared from $28,861 in 2006 to $37,217 in 2012, resulting in more financial stress and worries.

In releasing the report, UA chief executive Belinda Robinson said it showed financial stress on university students was clearly increasing.

"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% of students from low SES backgrounds enrolled by 2020," she said.