Outside the College Bubble

23 August 2017

University of Melbourne students who attend residential colleges on scholarships have said they feel less comfortable living at college than those who pay full fees.

The University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus and surrounding area is home to 12 residential colleges. These institutions provide students from around the world with both accommodation close to campus and a well-rounded university experience.

There are several scholarships available for students who cannot afford to pay full fees, especially for those moving to Melbourne from rural areas and disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.

While many see this as a highly commendable initiative, some scholarship students have found it difficult to keep up with the affluent lifestyle of some of their more privileged peers.

Due to this, some scholarship students feel out of place at college and choose to move out after a short period of time, as opposed to staying for the course of their degree.

Kevin* and Lily* both attended a residential college in 2016 as a requirement of their degree, Bachelor of Arts (Extended), after completing high school in the Northern Territory. As part of this requirement, Centrelink’s Abstudy programme covered the cost of their accommodation.

“The Bachelor of Arts (Extended) is a four year degree that will provide a pathway for Indigenous students to embark on careers that build on a strong Arts background,” the University website states.

Kevin and Lily agree that living on campus during their first year of university was very convenient, but felt that they did not entirely fit in with other college students.

“There were some students that I could get along with. But I did feel a distance from students that had gone to private schools and schools in Melbourne,” Kevin said.

“I don’t really know why I didn’t fit in, I guess it was because I didn’t really get around college life which was a very big thing socially,” Lily said. “It was hard to get around college because everything was so expensive and I didn’t have the money to keep up with everyone else.”

Marie* is a Bachelor of Arts student who was on a half scholarship at a different residential college in 2016, as a rural student with college alumni in her family. She too moved out after her first year.

“My time [there] was fun, there was a good community and there was always events on,” said Marie.

“They had tutoring available for all classes and you could get help with assignments.”

“But the college lifestyle is expensive. The events add up and you’re expected to go to them all,” Marie said.

All three students suggest that living at college made it difficult to maintain a part time job, which they needed in order to keep up with social costs. This is because they were expected to engage in a range of college activities in their time free of classes, and they had to pack up their entire rooms and leave each university break.

“Once becoming a resident of a college, you will be part of that college for life,” the University college website states. “It is a chance to form lasting friendships and connections that will stay with you for many years to come.”

But this may not be true if scholarship students feel as though they cannot afford to socialise with full-fee paying students.

Although their experiences do not necessarily reflect those of every student who lived on campus with a scholarship, Kevin, Lily and Marie feel much more comfortable socially and economically now that they have moved out together into a share house.

“I like it so much better, I haven’t looked back at college,” Kevin said.

“Moving out was the best decision I’ve made,” Lily agreed.

*Names have been changed in order to protect students’ privacy.

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