Charity Calls for More Clarity on Uni Fee Increases
7 August 2014 at 10:46 am
National children’s education charity, The Smith Family, has called on the Federal Government to provide greater clarity to families and young people from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds around the costs students will need to pay for a degree under its higher education reforms.
On the back of the National Press Club address by the Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, The Smith Family said that without the Federal Government releasing data to show the most likely cost increases for degrees – and the way in which its new measures to support disadvantaged students will help – low income families and students would continue to be concerned about their capacity to pay.
“Low income families and students are – not surprisingly – highly sensitive to price. Without clarity around the costs that they are likely to pay under the new system, we fear that that these changes will scare many away from university,” The Smith Family CEO Dr Lisa O’Brien said.
“It’s discouraging that no one is able to say – with authority – how much students will need to pay for their university degrees under the new system.
“We’ve heard estimates range from ‘more than $100k’ to Ian Young (Chair of Group of 8) saying annual fees of $12,000 to $14,000 a year, even at the country’s best universities, were more realistic.
“Any reforms which create more individual debt will scare greater numbers of low income students away from tertiary study unless there’s evidence to the contrary.
“Similarly, uncertain of the impact of financial burden on their child’s future, parents will start encouraging their children to set their sights lower.
“Low income families and students – and the organisations that support them – need greater confidence that the new system, including the measures designed to support them, will increase access to university, not make things harder.
"The Minister in his speech spoke of analysis conducted by the Innovative Research Universities into the likely course fees under the new system.
"I think public debate would benefit greatly if the Government was able to confirm the accuracy of this research with its own modelling; that its reforms will improve access to university among disadvantaged students and alleviate the real concerns that are out there.
“The Smith Family also calls on the Federal Government to act on the recommendations of Bruce Chapman and others and only charge interest on student debt when a graduate earns an income over a repayment threshold.
“We recognise that in his speech the Minister signalled his willingness to listen closely to the range of voices on this issue and give careful thought to their suggestions and we welcome that.
“We’d similarly suggest the Minister also consider other measures to inject greater fairness into the reforms, such as writing off student debt after a period of time, for example, 25 years.”
The Smith Family said it provided direct financial support to more than 1000 disadvantaged tertiary students each year.
“We must avoid a two-tiered university system – one for students and families with financial resources, the other for those without,” Dr O’Brien said.