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New government proposal precludes low-performing students from accessing HECS support

The new proposal applies to students who have failed more than four units in their Bachelor's degree.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen.

A new proposal by the Morrison Government to overhaul higher education fee support was unveiled in a media release from Minister of Education Dan Tehan this morning. The proposal aims to preclude students with low progression rates and academic performance from accessing Commonwealth supported places, HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP.

The release defines such students as those who have failed fifty per cent or more of 8 or more units in a Bachelor’s degree. This equates to one full-time semester’s worth of subjects at the University of Sydney. 

Students who fall under this categorisation must then make an application to their education provider, demonstrating any adverse circumstances suffered. 

The proposal does not suggest any further options or financial support for students whose application is not successful, other than transferring to a different course. Low completion rates will not carry over to new enrolments. 

Any debt incurred under an initial degree will be immediately payable, in addition to any HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP support received for subsequent enrolments. 

“Though the government claims to be targeting ‘serial failers’, these attacks will intentionally deny education to precarious students, sacrificing them as collateral if they cannot afford to self-fund their education,” SRC President Liam Donohoe told Honi Soit.

“Many of these vulnerable students are in first-year. It is this group, who are least aware of the help they could get and least able to reach out for diagnoses, who are unlikely to have the documentation needed to succeed in appeals.”

“Indeed, the overwhelming majority of students hurt by these changes are not ‘serial failers’, but hardworking, sincere students dealing with serious issues outside their control.”

“The measures announced by the Morrison government are the latest in their war on students. During the biggest social and economic crisis in a lifetime, the government wants to punish students who aren’t getting the right support to do their studies,” SRC Education Officer Jack Mansell told Honi.

“Instead, we need funding to address student poverty, resources to assist students in their studies, and free education for all. Any move towards a performance-based funding model is a dangerous step towards a fully individualised market system, and up front fees.”

The change is part of the larger ‘Job-ready Graduates’ legislation package announced earlier in June, which included controversial fee hikes to humanities and communications degrees by over 100 percent. 

A nationwide student action to protest the aforementioned changes is taking place on August 28. Details for the Sydney event can be found here.