Growing up in poverty in Morwell, in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, Jade Smith had big dreams of becoming not just the first person in her family to go university, but the first to get a doctorate.

“The idea of university was something that was really unattainable and quite fantastical … I didn’t know anyone who had been to university,” Ms Smith said.

Ms Smith always loved learning but at school noticed she missed out on things her peers took for granted, like new clothes, books or even school excursions.

“I had a single parent who wasn’t able to work due to a lot of her own chronic health issues. Finances were, to put it bluntly, quite tight for most of my upbringing. It was difficult to even pay for food and bills let alone school supplies,” she said.

Inspired though by her high-school history teacher, Ms Smith was accepted into one of Australia’s most prestigious schools – the University of Melbourne.

Like many students from under-served groups, she faced new challenges amid the sandstone pillars.

It could be lonely and initially overwhelming as she learned the routines of university life on her own without the advice many students receive at home. As an undergrad, Jade worked four part-time jobs to pay her costs. She also received a scholarship from educational charity The Smith Family.

Jade Smith is studying for her masters degree at the University of Melbourne.(ABC News: Peter Drought)

“We live in a country where access to educations remains a privilege. While affording textbooks might represent loose change for some, this isn’t the case for the 700,000 Australian children that live in poverty” Ms Smith said.

Ms Smith is pursuing a masters degree and while her dream of a doctorate is on track, she’d like to see more students with backgrounds like hers enrolled in higher education.

“I’m supportive of anything that can increase equity on campus and make university more inclusive,” she said.

Education Minister Jason Clare will today announce $16 million to fund 10 new study hubs in Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania to better support these students.

“I want more people to get a crack at going to university and that’s what these hubs are all about. At the moment, almost half of young Australians in their 20s and 30s have a uni degree but that’s not the case everywhere, it’s certainly not the case in regional Australia,” Mr Clare said.

The new sites, which will open in the next 12 months, will be in East Arnhem Land (NT), Victor Harbor (SA), Warwick (QLD) Chinchilla (QLD), Innisfail (QLD), King Island (TAS), Katanning (WA), The Pilbara, Longreach (QLD) and East Gippsland (VIC).

Study hubs are designed to assist students who live a long way from campus, either in regional areas or the outer suburbs, and are currently assisting 4,000 students to get a degree.

They allow regional students to enrol in higher education from their home towns without moving away and study hubs attempt to replicate services available on campus that remote students would otherwise miss out on.

As well as computers, high-speed internet, video conferencing and small classrooms, students can get pastoral care and advice as they transition to higher education.

“These hubs are places where people can go to do their degree but also talk to people who’ve been there and done that and can help people to put their assignments together, but also help them get through the sometimes long and lonely process of getting a university degree,” Mr Clare said.

Thirty-four existing study hubs were established by previous Coalition governments and towns and outer suburban areas will soon be able to apply to host one of another 24 planned study hubs.

Study hubs are also popular overseas and studies have shown they can improve the high first-year attrition rates for new students trying to find their way on campus.

Education Minister Jason Clare wants more people to “get a crack” at going to university.(ABC: Matt Roberts)

“Where we’ve got a hub like this in a small country town … the percentage of people doing a university degree goes up and the percentage of people who finish that degree goes up. So they work, they really have a big impact,” Mr Clare said.

The announcement comes as the government considers its response to the final report of its Australian Universities Accord expert panel, which aims to more than double the number of new students from 860,000 to 1.8 million.

It recommended equity targets to dramatically boost the number of students from First Nations, low SES backgrounds and regional and remote areas.

The report also called on universities to provide more support for these students to improve their completion rates.

Ms Smith hopes things will be more inclusive for the next generation to blaze a trail in the nation’s universities.

“It can be so challenging to be the first in your family to go to university and anything we can do to make it less overwhelming is welcome,” Ms Smith said.