Concern over higher fees

Concerned: Students Ross Sedra 21, Jess Epstein 20, and Mallee Lambert 22, chose to study medicine to help others. They said the funding changes won’t affect them, but could be a “barrier” to enrolling. Picture: Marina NeilUNIVERSITY of Newcastle students believe the government should have consulted more widely over its higher education reforms, which willlift student fees by 7.5 per cent and require HECS loans to be repaid sooner.

Third year medicine students Ross Sedra, 21, Jess Epstein, 20 and Mallee Lambert, 22, said most of their peers did not know about the government’s proposals for the sector, announced on Monday night, which was “disappointing” considering they would be footing the bill into the future.

Third year medicine student Mallee said uni funding changes could deter future enrolments @newcastleheraldpic.twitter南京夜网/qghONNpFw5

— Helen Gregory (@HGregory_Herald) May 2, 2017

Education Minister Simon Birmingham’schanges, if legislated,includestaggered fee increases from next year that will see the cost of a degree increase by 7.5 per cent by 2021.

The HECS repayment threshold will be lowered from $55,874 to $42,000 from 2018.

Students will start paying oneper cent of their income and repayment rates will rise in line with income.

“My main concern is how they can just slice $13,000 off the repayment threshold –what’s going to stop them going further in the future?” Mr Sedra said.

“Students struggle for so long that it would be nice to be able to get on top of it all for a while and then start deductions, rather than almost as soon as we leave uni.”

Mr Lambert said many students who chose not to pursue careers in their study areas may find themselves reaching the $42,000 threshold working full time in a cafe or an unrelated job.

He said this could hamper their ability or willingness to studyanother degree.

Mr Lambert studied two years of biomedical science before enrolling in medicine and will face a HECS bill of more than $70,000, while Mr Sedra and Ms Epstein will pay more than $50,000.

They said a 7.5 per cent fee increase –equal to an extra $3750 –was not small change.

“It really depends on the student’s individual circumstances, their family and their socio economic status, everyone will be affected in different ways,” Ms Epstein said.

“But both changes will create disparity between people accessing uni and those who won’t go to uni because they’ll see all these numbers and think they can’t afford it.”

Vice Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen said she“can’t support an increased burden on students” but said UON had support programs and education was still a worthwhileinvestment.

She said students would benefit fromthe continuation of the Higher Education Partnership and Participation Programto help the disadvantaged, as well asnew arrangements for sub-bachelor and enabling courses.

She said UON meeting theproposed 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend in 2018 and 2019, designed to save the budget $2.8 billion over four years, would be “challenging” and could include staff cuts.

Newcastle University Students’ Association president Michael Labone told the Herald on Monday efficiency dividends would not work “for universities trying to grow”.

“Further cuts put the trajectory of UON back five to 10 years,” he said.

“Lowering the HECS threshold is also pretty scary –we already have a casualised workforce and really high youth unemployment. It takes away the incentive forpeople to pick up extra work if they’re not seeing any extra money or career progression.”

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