Federal deputy opposition leader, Jenny Macklin, says without regional universities many young people would not be able to get a university education.
With ever-rising fees it is just too expensive to go away and study, she said.
Visiting Southern Cross Universitys Lismore campus yesterday, Ms Macklin said she was concerned for towns like Lismore after hearing the federal education minister, Julie Bishop, announce she wanted to see only 12 comprehensive universities across the whole country.
Try figuring out which ones will go, Ms Macklin said. A city like Lismore will just lose so much opportunity. For students, for researchers, I think it would be a disaster.
Ms Macklin said she was also greatly concerned about mounting HECS debt, which had now reached $62 million in the Northern Rivers.
Students are now paying $20,000 for a three-year science degree, she said. Thats a significant amount of debt for a young person starting their working life.
She said if Labor was elected next year they would combat skill shortages in regional areas by offering HECS rebates for key degrees like nursing.
She was also concerned about the effect of voluntary student unionism (VSU), and proposed making up the shortfall universitys were now facing with federal funding.
Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Clark said since the the VSU legislation came into effect on July 1 it had taken around $2 million out of the university.
To keep key services like the gym and food outlets going, the university was currently dipping into its own budget, but it was not a sustainable situation and commercial tenders had been called to continue operations.
He said metropolitan universities were not as hard hit by the changes because they had more money and parallel services were readily available.
When were out of town and were the only ones that provide something, students dont have a choice, he said.
He said the university wanted to keep medical and dental services but for how long remained to be seen.
Meanwhile, one of the first victims of VSU was Pulp the student magazine. In its place has arisen Propaganda, which was created in conjunction with the School of Arts and is now run on a commercial basis.
Now into its second issue, editor Nathan Apps said having to make money was proving to be the hardest part and it put the whole future of the magazine in jeopardy.
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