SRC to Launch New Textbook Subsidy Program For Semester 2
By Nicole Baxter
A new program is being introduced to assist university students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds with the purchase of textbooks, calculators, and other essential university learning equipment, through a $100 bursary. The scheme is being introduced by the University of Sydney Student Representative Council (SRC), and will be available as soon as Semester 2, 2019 to approximately 1000 undergraduate students.
Eligibility for the program will be confirmed in an interview with an SRC caseworker, who will assess financial need for the subsidy and verify the equipment required by the student in order to fulfil their unit of study requirements. If the student is confirmed to be eligible, they will receive $100 through electronic bank transfer. This process will take place in late July and early August, around the beginning of Semester 2.
Funding for the scheme is facilitated through a $100,000 grant by the University as part of the Student Services and Amenities Fee distribution process for Semester 2. This grant covers the proposed 1000 students who will be receiving the subsidy, meaning that the SRC’s funding is not impacted. However, in order to meet the additional workload associated with managing the program, the SRC is partially funding a casual caseworker for 8 weeks following the commencement of the application process. The SRC has stated that this funding is fully budgeted and will not affect other budgetary items.
SRC Vice President Dane Luo is the leader and organiser of the program, advocating for its installation since January 2019, and attending over a dozen meetings with University and SRC staff before the program was officially approved on Thursday. “I am proud of the over 100 hours spent in meetings, negotiations and preparation for this initiative”, said Luo, in a statement to Pulp. “It means that students won’t be left behind because they don’t have the necessary equipment.”
“I came from a low socio-economic background with my family struggling to afford excursions and camps. When I entered University, I faced challenges in the increase in costs of Opal travel, textbooks, a new computer and the USU’s Access program, amongst other things. I remember purchasing my first textbook for Foundations of Law. The reader and new textbook cost over $200,” said Luo.
This program is highly likely to benefit a large number of international students in particular, due to their ineligibility for a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) – resulting in larger, non-deferrable fees, and no chance of receiving a Student Start-Up Loan.
Additionally, as a part of Luo’s drive to make learning materials more accessible, the University has also agreed to changes in the ways that academic staff communicate course materials to students from 2020. This includes the use of e-Reserve to grant access to reading materials in a digital version for all first-year (1000-level) units where copyright and IP laws are not breached, a lecture-by-lecture based organisational format of online readings, and the labelling of all readings as either ‘Required’ or ‘Recommended’. These changes, making course requirements more transparent, will benefit students as they will have greater access to free online copies of their materials, and there will be less confusion over whether or not a textbook purchase is essential.
Not all of those with a say in this program believe in the benefits, however. “Initially, this idea was met with a lot of scepticism,” said Luo. “Some people in the University and some factions said it was not doable and unnecessary. The Textbook Subsidy Program has been in the works for months and it is amazing to see that the SRC can finally deliver on this important student service for the student body. I thank the support of the President and Executive for helping me see this through.”