The head of the closest university to the Blue Mountains has warned that rising tertiary study costs flowing from the 2014-15 federal budget could act as a deterrent to university study and have wider detrimental effects for the Greater Western Sydney region.
University of Western Sydney (UWS) vice-chancellor Professor Barney Glover said the university is closely examining the federal budget papers and would work with the university’s Board of Trustees and with student representatives “to understand better” its likely impact.
The federal budget will see university costs rise when federal government caps on course costs are scrapped from 2016.
The government’s contribution to degree costs will fall by an average of 20 per cent from 2016, meaning students will make a greater contribution to the cost of their education, although that won’t affect currently enrolled students until 2020.
Graduates will have to repay their HECS debts earlier, from when they start earning $50,638 instead of $53,345.
And they will have to pay interest set to the government’s bond rate instead of to inflation, from 2.9 per cent now to up to 6 per cent.
The changes will save the government $3.2 billion over four years.
The federal budget will mean lower education costs in some instances.
One-fifth of additional revenue raised through increased university fees will fund scholarships for disadvantaged students and for the first time direct government support will be extended to students at TAFE colleges, private universities and in diploma programs from 2016.
Professor Glover said the federal budget brings about “a major shift in the responsibility for funding from the Commonwealth to students, with estimates that the student contribution will increase on average to about 50 per cent of the cost of a higher education program.
“UWS is particularly concerned that this will place additional financial burdens on students and it will be important to determine if this acts as a deterrent to university study.
“This could have further implication for national productivity and regional development at a time when Australia and western Sydney face considerable economic and labour market challenges.
“We do not want to see any policy decisions that narrow the door to higher education.”
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said increased fees are justified by the higher salaries university graduates earn.
“The prices might go up or they might go down through competition,” Mr Pyne told Sky News last Wednesday.