So, the Government has just announced a massive university fee overhaul. Their aim is to steer students into degrees that lead to jobs and that will be of benefit to the country. Sounds reasonable enough, right? I’m not too sure about that, and neither is the National Union of Students.
This coronavirus pandemic has been shit all-round. Uni students have been studying from home, and attempting to complete their exams online too. Youth unemployment has increased to 16.1%, making up 45% of all jobs lost in May. All of this has meant that the government has wanted more employable people to fill jobs that will sustain the Australian economy in the future.
But does this mean that a three-year Arts degree should cost as much as a Medical degree? I don’t think that’s the way to go.
How Will The Fee Overhaul Affect You?
Course ‘price’ has a fairly weak effect on student choice at Aus unis due to deferred cost and other factors like institutional status being more important. Tehan’s changes won’t do much to redirect students to STEM but will subject arts grads to longer and higher HECS repayments
— Gareth Bryant (@garethjbryant) June 18, 2020
Arts and Communications degrees will see a 113% increase in fees to $14,500 per year. This would mean that a three-year Arts degree could cost students up to $43,500 by the end of their degree. And Law and Commerce degree fees will also increase by 28% to $14,500 per year, totalling up to $58,000 for a four-year degree.
Meanwhile, degrees such as Teaching, Nursing and Psychology will see a 46% decrease in fees, down to $3,700 per year. Agriculture, Maths, Science, Architecture, IT, Engineering and English courses will also see a drop in fees. Students are being encouraged to study ‘useful’ degrees.
Many year 12 students are also expected to not take a gap year after their final exams, due to the lack of jobs available and the inability to travel overseas with international travel still expecting to be off until at least 2021.
This means that, rather than taking time off, more students will be headed straight to university this year and next year. Because of this, the Government wants to increase the number of available university places by 39,000 over the next three years, up to 100,000 more by 2030.
No existing students will have to pay more for their degrees.
A Fee Overhaul Isn’t The Answer
So…Communication isn’t a ‘job-ready’ skill? Really? And another blow to the humanities when we need to understand our world more than ever
Uni fees overhauled, some course costs double as domestic places boosted — ABC News https://t.co/Y3Pk5hGYmj @SenKimCarr @conorduffynews
— Susan Forde (@FordeSusan) June 18, 2020
Don’t get me wrong, I understand what the Government is trying to do. They want to make sure students are employable after uni and contribute to the economy – especially after this pandemic. It’s so important to have more nurses, doctors, teachers and psychologists.
But if nurses and teachers are among the Government’s more valued jobs, then the answer isn’t necessarily reducing the cost of those degrees. It’s actually paying people in those positions what they deserve, and providing better working conditions.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has said these fee increases come at the expense of hundreds of thousands of students whose degrees aren’t seen as “worthy” or “job ready” by the Government.
In a Facebook post, the NUS said:
“No student should be left behind or stuck in a mountain of debt. This is no solution to the impacts of COVID-19 on our sector. Instead of giving a helping hand to our universities, they are attacking students, staff, and the viability of universities for all. Studying should never be a debt sentence.”
This fee overhaul will also have an impact on university teachers. If less students enrol in an Arts degree, for example, because it’s now too expensive, less teachers will be needed for those subjects. This will create a mass loss of teaching jobs within universities, and especially in humanities subjects, they can’t take many more losses.
What Uni Students Have To Say
Did a part time Arts degree at ANU after starting work in Commonwealth Public Service on basis of BSc(Hons). Did the Arts degree purely for interest; constantly drew on what I learned throughout my career and to this day. You can never tell what’s “relevant”. https://t.co/YtnZrRjnhE
— Paul Barratt (@phbarratt) June 18, 2020
“Ok honestly, I think they are missing the point entirely … Education isn’t a commodity, you shouldn’t treat it like supply and demand. And doing this would reinforce a two-tiered system of the elite and the working class. It would negatively impact things like college culture, and it would mean that people whose families have lower incomes are encouraged to look only at ‘practical’ opportunities.” – Stella, 21.
“Honestly, I would probably be incentivised to do a cheaper degree, especially knowing they’re good degrees. But this would saturate the job market more than it already has been and that will be even more detrimental to anyone trying to find a job … The government trying to value different types of education is also dumb.” – Lisa, 21.
“I’m not happy because my degree is one that’s going to be cheaper so I sort of feel like I’ve been ripped off … It’s obvious why they’re doing it in terms of trying to reallocate the amount of people doing jobs which are in demand … I think the smarter option would be offering pay rises in the targeted sectors so that everybody who has done and will do these courses benefits in the future and not just people picking it due to it being a cheaper course.” – Brad, 21.
“I understand wanting to steer people into industries with jobs right now but to make people pay that much more just to do something they love is ridiculous and unfair. Personally it wouldn’t make me choose a cheaper one but I’m sure a lot of people who may be from a family who are struggling would!” – Shailee, 21.
Image Source: Unsplash (Eriksson Luo @newdawn)