BY HANNAH SCHAUDER
University students have lashed out at the Morrison Government after Education Minister Dan Tehan unveiled a plan to amend university fees from 2021, with some to increase by an astounding 113 per cent.
Mr Tehan said the rationale to lower some fees, while increasing others, was to funnel students into “job-ready” degrees and increase employment rates.
Under the plan, the most significant price hike would be worn by arts students, which would see them saddled with $45,000 in HECS debt upon graduation.
Monash University arts student Maya Hammam said the proposed changes will have the biggest impact on current Year 12 students.
They will be discouraged from pursuing disciplines they are skilled in because humanities courses will no longer be affordable, she said.
“I’m concerned that if students choose career pathways based on reducing their HECS debt, their mental health will suffer in the long term,” Ms Hammam said.
“I don’t think anyone should sacrifice their ultimate career prospects for a cheaper degree, but not everyone is fortunate enough to be afforded that option,” she said.
University students have also taken to social media to express their frustrations.
Monash University arts student Oscar North was one of them.
He wrote, in a Facebook post, that increasing fees undermined the value of tertiary education, as it provided students with critical thinking skills, while enabling them to pursue their passions and interests.
“The Coalition’s constant attack on universities has been ongoing since they got into power in 2013, and it does not look like it’s stopping now,” Mr North wrote in his post.
“Eleven ministers in Scott Morrison’s Cabinet have a Bachelor of Arts, including the Education Minister Dan Tehan. They know how valuable these degrees can be, as they have done them themselves.”
Under the coalition’s plan, prospective law, commerce, business and economics students will be slugged with a 28 per cent increase in their fees.
Students studying disciplines considered by the government to be “high in demand” could see a 62 per cent decrease in their fees. These disciplines include agriculture, mathematics, teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, language, science, health, architecture, environmental science, IT and engineering.
Disciplines such as medicine, dental and veterinary science degrees will experience no change in fees.
“MSA is disgusted with the federal government’s fee increase for humanities, law and commerce degrees of up to 113 per cent,” Mr McDonald said.
“It is unfair for students and a shameless attempt to discriminate against those wanting to study certain courses at university.
“Students who study these degrees contribute enormously to Australia in so many ways, they do not deserve this.”
However, the proposed changes will not impact current students.
A petition to the Federal Parliament titled “Stop the Government from Needlessly Increasing the Cost of Humanities Degrees” has been launched on change.org and has already been signed by more than 6600 supporters.
The petition states the federal government is imposing unnecessary costs on students, as a humanities degree generally costs much less for a university to provide.
It calls the plan a “terrible decision” and advocates for change.
NUS president Molly Willmont has also created a petition, which has attracted more than 600 signatures.
“University shouldn’t be a debt sentence. But the recent announcements from the Education Minister may lock future students into a lifetime of debt simply because they want an education,” Ms Willmont wrote on megaphone.org.au.
“A 113 per cent increase in costs in some faculties will only create further inequalities for marginalised students like women and people with disabilities, who already take longer to pay off their HECS debt.”
The federal government’s proposed changes must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate to come into effect in 2021.