WHEN Connor Richardson made the difficult decision to withdraw from his university studies, he tried to keep his long-term plan in mind.
Mr Richardson, 21, had been struggling to balance his double degree in exercise and sports science and sports management at the University of Canberra with working enough to support himself before he left the nation's capital after two years.
He relocated to Newcastle and aimed to work for about a year to put enough money aside so he could return to his studies and not have to work or worry as much as when he lived in Canberra.
But the government lowering the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayment threshold to $45,881 from July 1 has "thrown a spanner in the works".
"If I pick up just one or two extra shifts a week I'll be pushed over the threshold, so I'm trying to work out what to do," he said.
"I'd been hoping to go back to university at the start of next year, but I'm looking at pushing back my return to study by six months or a year again, which is a bummer."
The repayment threshold has dropped $10,000 in two years, from $55,874 in 2017-2018 to $51,957 in 2018-2019 and $45,881 from July this year.
People earning $37,001 to $90,000 pay $3572 in tax plus 32.5 cents for every dollar over $37,000.
National Union of Students national president Desiree Cai said lowering the threshold was a "step backwards for the accessibility of Australians to higher education".
"The threshold is really close to what you'd earn in a full time minimum wage job - it's really low income," Ms Cai said.
"Students are feeling this is quite unfair and that they don't have the same opportunities that previous generations had as students, with a free education and allowances.
"There's a lot of stress and worry about the future.
"They're not given as much time to earn and try to set up an independent life.
"It will become even harder to save for a car and house."
Mr Richardson lives in a sharehouse and works part-time at a pub, where he is guaranteed three shifts a week, or 15 hours, but usually works five shifts a week.
He knows he has to repay the HELP loan, but had been hoping for more time to build financial security before he started.
He said although the repayment rate is only one per cent up to $52,973, and equal to a small sum each week, this adds up over a year to the equivalent of costs such as annual car maintenance.
"Sometimes you'll get weeks when something goes wrong with your car or big bills hit," he said.
"But it will really affect people who work casually. It affects your quality of life and and whether or not you head home for Christmas or a parent's birthday, which you should be able to do working 30 hours a week."