Students relieved as TAFE fees frozen

David SalvaireSound Telegraph
Teariki Rawiri and Brayden Hill from South Metro TAFE.
Camera IconTeariki Rawiri and Brayden Hill from South Metro TAFE. Credit: David Salvaire

Rockingham students have welcomed the State Government’s freeze on TAFE fees amid calls to make the sector more affordable to stop student numbers falling.

The freeze, which will cost $11.8 million over the four-year term, will be funded by a surcharge on foreign property buyers.

Announcing the move last week, Premier Mark McGowan said the policy was needed after fees increased by up to 510 per cent over the past four years.

Brayden Hill, who is studying a Certificate III in Wall and Ceiling Lining at South Metropolitan TAFE, welcomed the move and said he had felt the full effect of fee increases.

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“Obviously it would be good if they went down but it’s good to know,” he said.

“They’ve (TAFE fees) been going up the last couple of years and I’ve definitely been feeling it.”

Training data from 2013-2016 showed a 24.5 per cent drop in people going to TAFE. State School Teachers’ Union of Western Australia president Pat Byrne said the move was a step in the right direction but a reduction in fees was essential to the State’s economic future.

She said there had also been 27,152 fewer enrolments in general industry courses since 2013, partly because of the cost of TAFE fees.

“With unemployment and underemployment rates in WA at very high levels, there needs to be affordable and accessible, high-quality vocational and training courses available to people through TAFE to skill and re-train,” she said.

Minister for Education and Training Sue Ellery said the Government was unable to cut fees because of the State’s financial situation, which she blamed on the previous Liberal government.

Ms Ellery said the plan to raise funds for the freeze through a foreign buyers’ surcharge had been successful in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

But that measure was attacked by the Opposition with claims it would stifle WA’s already declining property market.

Shadow minister for education and training Donna Faragher said the previous Liberal government had implemented important reforms to make the TAFE sector more sustainable while Labor had broken its promise of no new taxes.

“It is interesting to note that the new Labor Government has not announced any changes to those necessary reforms and they have not lowered any fees,” she said.

“The new Labor Government is also imposing a new tax to fund the freeze, despite saying before the last election they would not introduce any new taxes.”

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