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Federal budget may increase university fees

The proposed package would also force students to pay back their debt sooner.

A photo of Parliament House in Canberra Parliament House, Canberra. Photo: Andrea Schaffer via Wikimedia Commons

University vice chancellors are set to be briefed in Canberra on Monday about a potential 25 per cent increase in university fees to be included in the 2017–2018 Federal Budget.

The proposed package would increase student contributions to their course costs from the approximately 40 per cent currently paid by a minimum of 25 per cent, according to an article published in The Weekend Australian today.

The proposed changes would also charge students a loan fee for HECS and lower the salary threshold for repayments of HECS, forcing many graduates to repay their debt earlier.

University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council (SRC) co-Education Officer Jenna Schroder told Honi, “raising student fees is a cruel move from the Liberal government that is going to worsen already growing inequality in Australia”.

“This is particularly unfair when taking into account the already present issues facing students today; the rising cost of living and casualisation of the workforce that will see many of us become financially unstable through no fault of our own,” she added.

A National Day of Action (NDA) being organised by the National Union of Students’ education department on May 17 will protest budget cuts to education.

University funding came under attack in 2014 when then Education Minister Christopher Pyne proposed a 20 per cent cut to university funding and full deregulation of course fees.

The deregulation was proposed as a way for universities to recoup lost government funds.

However, this newly proposed package would scrap the possible 20 per cent cut which was left on the table after last year’s Federal Budget abandoned the full deregulation plan.

The 2014 fee deregulation proposal was met with significant protests before the 2016 budget revealed it would not be considered an option until 2018.

One NDA in May 2014 attracted thousands of protesters in Sydney.

The University of Sydney held a historic Town Hall meeting with speeches from staff and students, with the overwhelming majority of attendees opposing the plan.

Though the Group of Eight, of which Vice Chancellor Dr Michael Spence is a member, had at the time of that meeting expressed unanimous support for deregulation, they withdrew this in 2015.

The new proposal is set to be announced to the public early next week following the briefing of vice chancellors, and Education Minister Simon Birmingham will address the National Press Club on Thursday, according to The Weekend Australian.

The budget will be released in just over two weeks on Tuesday, May 9.