A $4000-a-year study subsidy for new health students to be delivered in the NSW Budget is unlikely to make much difference for those battling HECS bill increases, unpaid work placements and the rising cost of living, according to University of Wollongong health students.
Second year medical student and Wollongong University Medical Students Society president Eleanor West said her peers had mixed feeling about the subsidy, which will also give existing students willing to commit to working in the NSW public health system a lump sum of $8000.
"Any cash in hand at the moment is beneficial, and for students living in a cost of living crisis, the money is definitely appealing in the short term," she said.
"But if we think about the $8000 lump sum for existing students, it's $1600 per year over a five year medical degree - and that comes down to about $4 a day, which is definitely not enough for what they are asking you to do.
"With NSW having the lowest paying jobs for new graduates in nursing and medicine and with HECS [indexation] rising, people are looking to go elsewhere so they will be able to pay back our ever-increasing debt."
She said many of her peers were seeking out higher paying roles in the private sector or in other states.
"It's not like people don't want to stay in NSW, they have families here, but you have to be able to pay off that HECS debt," she said.
"$4.30 a day becomes superfluous when you're looking at seven per cent indexing of HECS, which will wipe out the money they are offering."
In Tuesday's budget, Labor will commit more than $120 million towards the health worker study subsidies, supporting 12,000 healthcare students over five years.
Students can begin applying for this support from January 1, 2024, and must be willing to make a five-year commitment to NSW public health.
Health Minister Ryan Park said the scholarships would help to recruit and retain more health workers.
"This is just one of the suite of measures we are undertaking in building a supported workforce," he said.
"By boosting and supporting our health workforce, we will improve patient outcomes."
Angelique Dumas, 20, who is in her second year of nursing at UOW's Liverpool campus, said health students faced hidden costs during their degrees and believed the prospect of a study subsidy would be appealing for some.
"Given the current economic climate, I think this money will be helpful for some students," she said.
"Nursing is quite expensive with costs that can be hidden - so we do 810 hours of clinical placement where we are not paid, the parking costs on placement can be up to $30 a day, and often hospitals where we are placed might not be close to home or work, so there are transport costs as well."
Ms Dumas said she would be working 40 days straight while undertaking her placement, as she needed to work weekends to be able to afford her rent.
"I think any money has the potential to help retention of staff - and a subsidy has the potential to make a difference for part of the cohort, but this can't be the only thing that's done," she said.
She said students would need to weigh up whether it was worth it to commit to the NSW public system before applying for the money.
The University of Wollongong said there would likely be more than 1000 domestic students enrolling in health care degrees from the start of 2024, studying nursing, medicine, pre-medicine, Indigenous health, psychology and exercise science and rehabilitation.
The university said it was looking forward to seeing further detail about the scholarships and who will be eligible to apply.
"The University of Wollongong welcomes the NSW Government's commitment to provide further support to healthcare students by initiating new scholarships starting in 2024," Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Student Life) Professor Theo Farrel said.
"This is excellent news for our current and future healthcare students.
"We know our graduates are highly valued and have an excellent reputation wherever in the healthcare system they choose to work."
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