No amount of tweaking will improve Pyne’s dud package

The architect of HECS, Professor Bruce Chapman, has confirmed that tinkering around the edges of the real interest rate on student debt will not address the fundamental unfairness of the Abbott Government’s higher education package.

As Professor Chapman said today, the Government’s changes would mean fees still had to go up by at least 30 to 40 per cent just to cover the Government’s  funding cuts – and possibly much more.

It would not be extraordinary in my view, for some courses to have the fees double or even more, so rough guess 40 per cent minimum for some courses; I think that that figure would be a lot higher.”


Shadow Higher Education Minister Senator Kim Carr said merely fiddling with the most unpopular element of the package – a compound interest rate of up to 6 per cent on HECS-HELP debts – would not alter the essential unfairness of the changes.

“This is not about getting rid of a real interest rate – it’s just about applying it in a different way,” Senator Carr said.

“There are three fundamental points to make here.

“One, if these proposals will have little impact on the budget bottom line, as is being claimed, then students must still be getting slugged – just in a different way. Cost shifting to students is still the aim here.

“Two, fiddling with the way a real interest rate would be applied does nothing to address the vicious 20 per cent cut to funding for undergraduate places – which will need to be made up in higher fees.

“Three, the revised real interest rate options do nothing to prevent universities hiking their fees dramatically as a result of deregulation – something many universities have openly said will happen.

“Watering down one aspect of the Pyne plan will not stop the Americanisation of our universities and the prospect of $100,000 degrees.

“As Nobel laureate and US economics professor Joseph Stiglitz pointed out in Australia recently, it would be ‘a crime’ to go ahead with these changes to one of the most admired higher education systems in the world.

 “Labor opposes the Abbott Government's plan to destroy our universities and will fight it every step of the way." 


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