Research from the youth trends study, the Life Patterns project, shows that, despite government efforts to improve higher education participation rates among young people from rural and low socio-economic backgrounds, these two groups still lag behind the majority.


The Life Patterns project is the flagship study from the Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education.


Those from rural backgrounds face the dual challenge of managing the cost of relocating to regional towns or cities and recreating their social network to pursue their studies.


Many young people from low socio-economic backgrounds tend to put off further education to earn more money, or choose to enter the labour market with little expectation they will be able to afford further study.


Financial pressures mean both groups are forced to work long hours in part time jobs, often juggling irregular shifts with study pressures. Young people in these two groups find this particularly difficult given the fewer support resources available to them.


Prof. Johanna Wyn, Director of the Youth Research Centre, leads the study. She commented: "Given the importance of gaining post-secondary educational qualifications today, it is unacceptable that young people from rural and low socio-economic backgrounds continue to face barriers to further study.


"Targeted financial support for study, accommodation and living costs for these students is needed. In addition, educational institutions could do more to ensure that students are socially integrated and have social support, particularly in the first years of study."


The study also found an increasing tendency for young people to depend on high levels of family support in the years immediately after school, a willingness to travel long distances to study or work in order to remain living at home and feelings of under-preparedness to deal with life after school.


Life Patterns has been following a group of people born around 1973 since they left school in 1991. In 2006, a new cohort of Australian students in their final year of schooling was recruited to the project. Members of this group were born around 1989. This is the first set of findings comparing the Gen X and the Gen Y groups to be released.


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