I would look at anything from a popular company to start. Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Pentax, Olympus all have good offerings. Worry more about the lens for now. It is my opinion that you should start with a fast normal lens instead of a zoom lens. It will be bright, sharp, easy to focus, allow you to shoot in lower light, and begin teaching you the visual effects of changing your distance from the subject. You can always upgrade your body later. I would personally suggest a Canon AE-1 Program with a 50mm f/1.8 lens to start, or a Nikon equivalent (I don't know what Nikon's lower-end cameras are called). They should be Under $50 with a lens. Keep your eyes peeled. They turn up all the time for next to nothing. Pentaxes are also cheap as dirt and common. I like the Spotmatic a lot, but the K models are great too.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
The originator of the thread is located in Australia, in this country, readily available camera models are different to what is often widely available in the northern hemispheres.
Another unfortunate fact is the pricing of camera equipment, this country is not cheap. Currently a Nikon FE2 for instance is often around the $600 mark if in very good condition, a poor condition model will be more like $300 - 350 if you are lucky.
The cheapest cameras appear to be the Nikon F3 bodies, for some reason they are plentiful and no one appears to want them. Many Canon bodies are in great demand, therefore their prices are high.
The Olympus OM10 was a huge success in this country, as a result there are many available for reasonable prices, something I'm sure a student appreciates, plus they have a range of fine optics.
2F/2F has a very good point regarding the use of a standard 50mm lens, instead of a zoom lens.
The greatest number of cameras in a single model sold in this country could possibly have been the Pentax K1000, they were just everywhere.
Nikon is really a good choice, not so much for the cameras themselves but for their lenses.
Like said previously, old FM or FE are now cheap on the second-hand market and they work great. Fully manual for the FM with easy to operate meter, depth of field test, robust, good shutter. The FE is adding an auto exposure (aperture priority), a needle-type meter reading and the same shutter.
The newer FM2 and FE2 are indeed overpriced now. But if you have that amount of money, you could as well invest in a pro F3. Much better in all ways, was designed for pro use, the rough rides and all that...
Lenses: a 50mm f1.8 or f1.4 to start with. A 35mm f2 if you have enough funds. A 85mm f2 or 105mm f2.5 for portrait. All the old classics!