By ALEXIS CAREY
UPDATE: Treasurer Joe Hockey has indicated that $100,000 degrees could soon become a reality – and that the Government is also determined to rip money out of the university sector for good measure.
Call me a crazy dreamer, but I’ve always thought that gaining a place at university should be based on ability, not the number of zeros in your parents’ bank account.
But that’s EXACTLY what will happen if the Federal Government’s controversial higher education reforms are passed.
If you’ve not come across the proposed changes, let me fill you in. They were first announced in the May budget and in a nutshell, they would see universities set their own fees, which in turn could lead to a massive increase in the cost of student loans.
It has been predicted that fees could rise above $100,000, and the Government’s legislation could be introduced into the Parliament as early as this week.
Supporters of the reforms claim they are needed because at the moment, universities have a flawed funding structure with no cap on student numbers but an increasing funding gap. In layman’s terms, this means unis are struggling with too many students, and not enough money.
They argue that the reforms will give students more choice and unis more freedom to determine their size and their degrees.
That could be true, but here’s the thing – deregulating uni fees (and pushing fees up) will unfairly disadvantage certain students and the entire country will suffer as a result. What happens if our best and brightest minds also happen to be from poorer backgrounds? We could have the next Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein or Marie Curie in our midst but if they can’t afford an education, all that brilliance and potential could be lost to us.
Obviously, kids from poorer families will be the hardest hit.
They will also have a huge impact on female graduates, as women are more likely to take time out of their careers to have children and care for sick relatives. Career breaks equal a loss of income and superannuation and mean that women will then take longer to pay off their debts than their male peers.
And kids from the country, who already face staggering costs associated with moving and renting, will also be affected.