Future university students count cost of higher education reforms

TOMORROW’S PROBLEM: Charles Sturt University students Tori Murray and Anna Tickle say most university students do not think about how much debt they will be in at the end of their degree and they will deal with it when the time comes. Photo: JUDE KEOGH  0812hecs2

TOMORROW’S PROBLEM: Charles Sturt University students Tori Murray and Anna Tickle say most university students do not think about how much debt they will be in at the end of their degree and they will deal with it when the time comes. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0812hecs2

YEAR 12 students considering going to university next year do not know what they will pay for their degree and it is deterring students from applying, says Country Education Foundation (CEF) chief executive officer Sarah Taylor. 

Uncertainly surrounds the sector after the Abbott government announced a series of changes in the May budget, such as deregulation of university fees, increasing the HECS-HELP loan interest rate and a lower threshold at which students will pay the debt back. 

The changes would mean some science-based degrees could cost students up to $250,000.

The CEF is a network of more than 40 education foundations that raises funds for disadvantaged regional students to be able to afford higher education and Ms Taylor says the changes will affect rural students the most. 

She says the price is prohibitive to rural and regional students, who traditionally have less money that their metropolitan counterparts, and who encounter extra costs because they have to travel further to go to university. 

“It’s the uncertainly which is the biggest problem ... they won’t know the cost of their degrees,” she said. 

“It’s particularly concerning, especially because some of the modelling we’ve seen, costs for a communication degree could go from $30,000 to $100,000.”

However, Charles Sturt University students Tori Murray and Anna Tickle said even if their degrees were more expensive they would still have enrolled in university. 

The students said the HECS debt they would be left with was a problem they could deal with later.

“Maybe if I was studying a science degree I would not have done it,” Ms Murray said. 

Ms Tickle agreed the changes would affect regional students more, but said most university students did not think about what their debt would be after they graduated, when they applied for courses.

Adding to the confusion are additional changes expected to be made to the reforms in order to get them through the Senate.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has also suggested deregulation of university fees could benefit regional students because universities could compete on price. 

nicole.kuter@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop