A degree shouldn’t be a debt sentence for regional students

Opposition leader Bill Shorten, Shadow Higher Education Minister Senator Kim Carr and Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters MP will today join students at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus as part of Labor’s ‘A Degree Shouldn’t Be a Debt Sentence’ campaign.

Mr Shorten said regional universities, such as the Bendigo campus, would be particularly hard hit by the Abbott Government’s budget cuts to universities and radical plans for fee deregulation.

“La Trobe University stands to lose more than $141 million as a result of Tony Abbott Government’s cuts, which means students at regional campuses like Bendigo will suffer,” he said.

 “We know that many more students in regional areas than in our capital cities are from low socioeconomic backgrounds and simply cannot afford Tony Abbott’s $100,000 degrees.

 “A degree should open, not shut, the door to opportunity and prosperity for young Australians – Labor believes a degree shouldn’t be a debt sentence.

 “Since we launched our online petition against these short-sighted and unfair changes last week, there have been more than 19,000 signatures.”

 Senator Carr said regional universities and campuses will find themselves having to make tough decisions about how to deal with these cuts.

 “Do they charge an extra 30 per cent just to make up shortfall, do they slashes their courses or do they wind back research?” said Senator Carr.

“Labor doesn’t believe regional universities should be forced into having to make these unfair choices.

“The Abbott-Pyne plan to Americanise our universities will shatter the dream of a university degree for many of these young people and their families.

“It’s not for students to pick up the tab – they already pay some of the highest universities fees in the developed world – and we shouldn’t let the Government off the hook for its responsibilities for proper funding.”

Ms Chesters said people in Bendigo and central Victoria were angry the Abbott Government had lied when it promised before the election “no cuts to education”.

“Many people are worried that these changes will mean university will become too expensive for young people,” she said.

“La Trobe’s Bendigo campus has significantly higher numbers of students from a low socio-economic background than the national average, so this will hurt our region more than most.

“This is not the Australia we want. This is not fair and Labor will fight these changes every step of the way.”

The Abbott Government’s changes to higher education are a triple-hit to students:

  • Cutting funding for undergraduate places by up to 37 per cent;
  • Deregulating fee levels, allowing universities to charge what they like; and
  • Introducing a compounding real interest rate of up to 6 per cent for all HECS-HELP debts – future and existing.

Overall, the Abbott Government’s Budget cut $5.8 billion from higher education. This means universities will be forced to put up fees by at least 30 per cent just to cover the loss of funding.


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