The fee outcomes of the most radical transformation to higher education in Australia for 30 years have not been assessed, Department of Education officials have told Senate estimates.
“On top of a lack of consultation beforehand, and a failure to reveal this radical plan before the election, we now hear that there is no official view of what will happen to fees,” Shadow Higher Education Minister Senator Kim Carr said after the hearing.
ASSOCIATE SECRETARY: We are not at all keen to be forecasting fees because we simply wouldn’t know what’s going to happen to fees. – Senate estimates, 5 June 2014
Senator Carr asked officials appearing before Senate estimates what annual level of increase was anticipated for the projected tuition fees.
SENATOR CARR: Because it would be irresponsible, wouldn’t it, to propose a system where you don’t know what the consequences are?
SECRETARY: So the consequences will be known when each institution … sets its fees, which is already starting to happen. - Senate estimates, 5 June 2014
“It appears the Government is flying blind when it comes to the impact of its higher education package on students and their families,” Senator Carr said afterwards.
“However, some vice-chancellors and experts in the sector have warned that fees could rise to very high levels and that future debt levels are of deep concern.
“It’s absolutely clear that with a 20 per cent cut to funding, universities will have to substantially raise their fees just to stay in the same spot – that’s just for starters.”
This week, peak body Universities Australia asked the Government to rethink its design of loan repayments and its cuts to the sector.
Today, Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief economist Saul Eslake added his voice to the debate, warning of the consequences of higher interest rates on student loans, particularly for women.
Mr Eslake said the prospect of repaying university loans while raising a family might deter women, while many other prospective students would weigh up the costs against the benefits.
“It would be irrational for people not to consider the cost in relation to their working life, in the same way as when you borrow to buy a house.”
SAUL ESLAKE – HOBART MERCURY – 6 JUNE 2014
“The chorus of opposition to this ill-conceived package is now very loud – it’s time the Government actually took heed and scrapped its shambolic policies,” Senator Carr said.
FRIDAY, 6 JUNE 2014