Yandina's Peta Wicks finds it hard juggling her university studies at USC with paid work at IGA supermarket.
Yandina's Peta Wicks finds it hard juggling her university studies at USC with paid work at IGA supermarket. Iain Curry

Poverty’s one of the hard lessons to learn

AN increasing number of university students are getting themselves into serious debt as they try to balance study with part-time jobs.

Almost two-thirds of them have incomes below the poverty line, according to the findings of the University Student Finances in 2012 report released this week.

At the same time, student debt has soared by almost 30% in just six years.

The report, compiled by Universities Australia, showed average student debt had risen from $28,861 in 2006 to $37,217 in 2012.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicate there were 1.2 million higher-education students in Australia in 2010 of whom 72% (857,000) were domestic students and 28% (335,000) were international students.

The result shows "financial distress" among students.

In a bid to keep their heads above water, the report found university students were having to work excessive hours.

The finding comes as no surprise to University of the Sunshine Coast student Peta Wicks, 21, who said the amount of hours she worked was having an impact on her studies.

At the moment she is working 25 hours a week at work while studying three subjects.

"I don't get enough study done to be happy with my grades," Ms Wicks said.

"I know I can get better grades than I'm currently getting. I get about five hours sleep a night ... I never go out."

Ms Wicks said she usually missed about one class a week due to work commitments.

"When they offer me a shift that clashes with uni, I have to say 'yes' or they stop offering them to me."

She said her work hours placed "a fair amount" of stress on her and she wouldn't be able to get by without government assistance such as the HECS-HELP loan, and support from her family.

Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said the report results were concerning and required close monitoring.

"It clearly shows that financial stress on university students is increasing," MsRobinson said.

The survey drew responses from almost 12,000 students across Australia.