Funding changes a barrier to university say students

David SalvaireSound Telegraph
Emilyn Eggins, of Waikiki, outside Murdoch University’s Rockingham campus.
Camera IconEmilyn Eggins, of Waikiki, outside Murdoch University’s Rockingham campus. Credit: David Salvaire

Anxiety is growing among Rockingham students over the Federal Government’s overhaul of the higher education sector which could see fees rise and loans repaid earlier.

Under the planned changes, students studying a four-year bachelor degree will pay between $2000 and $3600 more over the duration of their course. All fees will still be able to be deferred on the income-contingent HECS-HELP loan scheme.

From July next year students will potentially have to start paying back their loans when they reach an income level of $42,000 a year, down from the current level of about $55,000.

Waikiki student Emilyn Eggins, who is enrolled in the Rockingham campus’ OnTrack program, said she was nervous about the increases.

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“The fee increase really wouldn’t be great,” she said.

“I’m still looking for work while I’m doing this course which is already pretty tough.

“When I get to university I’ll probably have to do most of my fees through HECS so having to pay it back sooner isn’t going to be good at all. It’s looking like it will be a while before I can pay off my debts.”

Brand MHR Madeleine King said the Federal Government was “out of touch” and would burden local students and families with increased university debt.

“The challenges facing young people in Brand going to university are very real and high fees are a real barrier,” she said.

“It is all well and good for Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal Government to say fee increases and cuts to funding are fair, measured and modest, but the reality is they are not.”

Universities across the country could face a 2.5 per cent funding cut to teaching payments under the plan.

While other universities have been outspoken on the issue, Murdoch’s vice-chancellor was remaining tight-lipped until the Budget was handed down. In August 2014 Murdoch relocated its education degree programs to the South Street campus, in a move that angered some local students.

Murdoch did not respond to questions from the Telegraph over whether the cuts would further affect operations at its Rockingham campus.

Instead, a spokesman pointed to a blanket statement which said Murdoch had “listened carefully” to what the Federal Government had said on the issue.

UWA student Lina El Rakhawy, from Baldivis, said students were already “doing it tough” trying to make ends meet while at university.

“Students already struggle to get through university as it is,” she said.

“These cuts will make it even harder for university to be accessible for young people in WA and around Australia.”

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