UNE Vice-Chancellor Professor Jim Barber has welcomed the Government’s decision to repeal the proposed $2000 cap on self-education expenses as removal of a national disincentive to pursue personal education at every stage in life.
Professor Barber said the proposed cap would have put tertiary studies beyond the reach of thousands of low-income working families and had a disproportionate impact on regional universities and students in part-time jobs.
At the last budget prior to the Federal election, the Labor Government announced a cap on self-education expenses to save $266 million over the forward estimates, however Treasurer Joe Hockey yesterday announced the Government would not proceed with the measure.
Professor Barber said the decision by the Treasurer averted potentially devastating impacts for the University of New England and its students.
“A cap would literally push the cost of self-education out of the reach of many post-graduate students at UNE and increase costs for almost everyone wishing to attend any university in a regional area.
“The University of New England has more than 95,000 graduates, many of whom hold postgraduate qualifications that have been obtained through a wide range of professional training and development programs. Tuition fees for many of these programs can be around $15,000 per annum on average for a full-time student and well in excess of the proposed $2,000 annual cap.
“Graduates from education, medicine, law and many other fields would all find it more expensive to continue ongoing education and training. Not only would this reduce the overall quality and knowledge of the Australian workforce, the viability of many fee-paying postgraduate programs that provide professional training and development for working Australians would be under threat.
“At the same time, UNE has more than 17,000 distance education enrolments this year, many of them working adults on low incomes, who also would have been caught up in the proposal.
“These are often people from modest-SES backgrounds, making sacrifices and paying their own way to study and improve their lot in life. A cap could potentially put their goals beyond reach.
“For rural and regional students, who already have to cover significant travel and accommodation expenses no matter where they attend university, a cap would increase the financial burden of education, as it would for any metropolitan student travelling to attend a regional university.
“Thankfully, the new Government has engaged with universities on this issue. We received a good hearing from the Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, as well as with Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Senator Fiona Nash and today’s decision has avoided serious consequences for students and the Tertiary Education sector as a whole,” Professor Barber said.