Students at the Wagga Wagga campus of Charles Sturt University may find themselves with far fewer degree choices as course cuts loom over popular subjects.
Former CSU student and city councillor Dan Hayes has shared his concern that the psychology major at the university may be on the chopping block.
Mr Hayes said he had been told there were plans in the works to remove the course offerings from Wagga to consolidate the degree type on the Bathurst campus.
He said he was dismayed with the prospect, having received his own psychology qualifications at the Wagga-based university.
"That's what Charles Sturt University has always excelled at, being there for local people to get skilled up," he said.
"It also provides opportunities for those who are not from Wagga to come here, study and potentially stay here."
Students who are forced to travel outside of the region to receive their qualifications, Mr Hayes said, are far less likely to return promoting skills shortages across the Riverina.
"That is the strength of CSU, it reverses the 'brain drain' and psychology is significantly needed here," he said.
"We've had a drought, bushfires and now COVID-19, coupled with the fact we also have higher suicide rates in the regions, psychology is something we do need. Mental health isn't just going to go away."
To make up for its $49.5 million virus-induced deficit, the university announced last month that it will look to cut up to 600 subjects from its statewide offerings.
Additionally, hundreds of jobs in both administration and academics will be made redundant.
When contacted by The Daily Advertiser a spokesperson for CSU confirmed the university is still reviewing each of its 4751 subject offerings.
"We are considering a number of changes to courses," the spokesperson said.
"We have not made decisions yet - we are asking our faculty staff for feedback first. Feedback is still underway. We expect to have final decisions on changes to courses in August and September."
As universities receive allocations of federal funding, Mr Hayes has called on the Member for Riverina and deputy prime minister Michael McCormack to intervene and save the fate of the Wagga campus.
He said he did not intend to make his appeal an indictment against the university.
"This isn't a criticism of CSU. I'm advocating for this course to be kept because it's needed, but at the end of the day, the uni is facing touch choices and it will come down to whether there is support from the federal member," he said.
Mr McCormack responded by saying he had launched his full support behind the university at this time of difficulty.
"I have been working tirelessly with the university sector, alongside Regional Education Minister Andrew Gee and Education Minister Dan Tehan, to minimise the severe economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in regional areas where universities such as Charles Sturt play such an important role," Mr McCormack said.
Earlier this month, Nationals frontbencher Andrew Gee announced he would be seeking to place a caveat to protect regionally-based campuses from sweeping fee changes at universities.
"In my regular communications with the Charles Sturt University leadership team, I have strongly urged it to seriously consider the implications of any decisions it makes on the regional communities it serves, particularly at the Wagga campus," Mr McCormack said.
"I appreciate the current economic climate means difficult decisions will need to be made, however, any efficiencies which need to be made should not come at the significant cost of services, jobs and courses at the Wagga campus."
Mr McCormack further confirmed that psychology courses would continue to be valued across the nation, as the federal government outlines its fee overhaul strategy.
Meanwhile, strategies have been discussed to further incentivise regional students to take up university positions.
"The federal government's Job-ready Graduate package will increase the number of domestic places at Charles Sturt University make it cheaper for students to study clinical psychology," he said.
"Students who study teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, English and languages will pay 46 per cent less for their degree."
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