BY NATASHA SCHAPOVA
NSW Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said, during yesterday’s parliamentary sitting, at least 16 members of the Federal Government did not pay for university.
“They’re planning to hike fees, condemn students to decades of debt, cut up to $900 million from teaching and learning and punish struggling students,” Senator Faruqi said.
“All while youth wage growth is the flattest in history and unemployment is skyrocketing.”
The changes to fees, part of the Job-Ready Graduates Package announced by Education Minister Dan Tehan, will be implemented across Australia from semester one, 2021, if approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
University degrees such as law and commerce are set to increase in price for new students, with arts degrees specifically to incur a 113 per cent fee hike under the proposal.
Degrees such as health, agriculture, education and English, as well as science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), as set to decrease in price as the government seeks to filter graduates into “jobs of the future”.
These changes will not affect students who began their degree prior to 2021.
In another hit to university students, Mr Tehan announced on August 13 students with “low completion or progression rates” will be ineligible for a Commonwealth supported place (CSP).
Senator Faruqi said government officials have admitted such changes would not deter students from pursuing degrees they “care about”.
Gleneagles Secondary College Year 12 student Angela Kavedzic planned to study a Bachelor of Arts at Monash University next year, and then transfer into a Bachelor of Laws.
However, she said the proposed fee hike for arts degrees has led her to reconsider.
“Arts degrees are not worth that much,” Ms Kavedzic said.
“Now I’m also considering a Bachelor of Science, but I haven’t studied any of the prerequisites like VCE science or maths subjects because I was planning on going into a [Bachelor of Arts].”
However, not all students have been deterred from applying for arts degrees.
Year 12 student Tatijana Dobric remains determined to study a Bachelor of Arts at Monash University regardless of a fee hike, believing students passionate about arts should persevere.
“I know there are opportunities for employment [in my career pathway] so I’m not worried that I won’t be able to pay my HECS back,” Ms Dobric said.
“At least I don’t have to pay it upfront.”
Ms Dobric said if students opt for cheaper degrees, they will be filtered into jobs they are unsatisfied with.
“They’ll feel out of place and although their HECS will be paid off in a shorter amount of time, their job satisfaction will be low.”
She added arts degrees are important during an increasingly automated and digital age.
Relaunch Me career coach Leah Lambart worries students will choose their degrees for the wrong reasons.
“My concern is that people will choose career pathways based on price rather than whether it is something they’re suited to or genuinely interested in,” Ms Lambart said.
She added broad degrees, such as arts, allow students to pursue potential career paths without clearing out their bank accounts.
“These degrees have been popular for people who want to go and experience different areas of study before choosing their pathway, rather than being committed to something without knowing for sure if that’s what they want to do,” she said.