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MEDIA RELEASE: Attacks on Australia’s renowned student loans system must stop, says CAPA

4 Jul 19

Attacks on Australia’s renowned student loans system must stop, says CAPA

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is concerned about continued legislative attacks weakening the Australian student loans system.

The Higher Education Support (Charges) Bill and the Higher Education Support Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill was introduced to the lower house today by Minister for Education Dan Tehan.

The Charges bill will, for the first time, create an annual fee to higher education providers for the administration of HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP loans. This will save the Government $13.8 million over several years. The Charges bill sits alongside the Cost Recovery bill, which facilitates collection of the annual charge. It also creates a new application fee for higher education providers for their students to be eligible for FEE-HELP.

Introducing taxes on higher education, as this legislation will do, is an attack on our student loans system. HELP, previously known as HECS, is envied the world over for enabling access to higher education for those who cannot afford it upfront. Numerous countries including New Zealand, England, Japan, and the Netherlands have implemented student loans schemes closely based on the Australian model. Currently, the inventor of HECS is assisting Brazil to develop their own version of the student loans scheme.

Despite the global acclaim of Australia’s well-designed student loans system, the Coalition Government is attempting to dismantle HELP and transfer upfront costs back to students. Last year, the Government implemented a borrowing cap which means that tens of thousands of postgraduate students will have to pay fees upfront. Only days ago, the income repayment threshold was retroactively lowered so those earning barely above minimum wage will have to start paying back their loans – despite signing up to these loans under a different set of terms. And now, the Government is seeking to tax higher education providers for facilitating access to HELP. This tax will end up being passed to students, either through an increase in fees for postgraduate and international students, or through a reduction in services available to students.

“Our student loans system enables upward mobility for Australians who wish to go to university in pursuit of higher-paying employment, even if they cannot afford tuition fees upfront,” says CAPA President, Natasha Abrahams.

“It is essential that we retain HELP, instead of slowly pulling it apart with various pieces of legislation.”

Going forward, we implore the Government to make considered policy decisions on higher education in the future, rather than introducing piecemeal legislation to make quick savings.

CAPA last year wrote a submission to the Senate inquiry on the legislation, recommending that the Government halt the legislation and instead investigate the soaring costs of tuition fees, particularly for postgraduate study.
For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993