TAFE fee hikes puts 'education out of reach'

Matt Adams, Amy McArthur and her sister Rhiannon at Wentworth Falls TAFE.

Matt Adams, Amy McArthur and her sister Rhiannon at Wentworth Falls TAFE.

New TAFE fees planned for 2015 may price some Mountains students out of a post-school education, according to Greens MP John Kaye and Labor's Trish Doyle.

Dr Kaye said the higher fees will "devastate opportunities for people with disability and push TAFE in Western Sydney to the brink".

The new fees for 2015 were published on a state government website last month. They show significant increases in most courses.

Some of the popular courses studied at Wentworth Falls and/or Katoomba campuses include outdoor recreation, tourism, beauty services and commercial cookery. These will all rise from $838 this year to $2110 next year.

Others set to increase include certificate III courses in hospitality (from $838 to $1440), horticulture ($838 to $2170) and information technology ($1140 to $1960).

Certificate II courses are also set to increase with horticulture rising from $534 to $1110 and kitchen operations from $534 to $870.

Ms Doyle said she had heard from a number of concerned students, parents and teachers.

"Many just cannot afford the costs and are both worried and angry," she said.

"Privatisation and the ability to pay forms this government's agenda. Fee increases will put education out of reach for many students and workers. This is unfair and wrong."

She said the NSW and federal governments were creating an under-class in society, "preventing those most vulnerable from the chance to be educated and trained for the future. It is nothing less than appalling."

Dr Kaye said students hoping to build on the Mountains' excellent tourism opportunities will have to pay much more for courses.

"This will have a devastating impact on the Blue Mountains ability to grow jobs and thrive economically.

"The Mountains relies heavily on jobs that require high quality vocational training. This new market will destroy the high standards of teaching and support that TAFE has built up.

"Public vocational education and quality job training is essential to the Blue Mountains economy and will be irrevocably damaged by these changes," Dr Kaye said.

Student Rhiannon McArthur, who is doing a diploma of event management at Wentworth Falls, was doubtful about being able to manage the fee increases.

"I wouldn't be able to pay for it myself. You would have to pay a couple of thousand straight up," she said.

Her sister, Amy, studying hospitality, said she didn't believe the price rises were "very fair".

But Matt Adams said he would be willing to pay more and found the hospitality course he was doing was much better than school "because you get more opportunities here".

Rhiannon said many students went to TAFE because school was not suitable, She was concerned that fee increases would make it harder for them to attend.

Ms Doyle said she had been circulating a petition to stop the TAFE cuts at various street stalls, markets and festivals across the Mountains, and had gathered hundreds of signatures.

"People are very angry with the government and are fighting back," she said.

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