By Jessica Nairn
A divide has emerged between Canberra’s two top universities over the Federal Government’s plans to deregulate fees for students.
From 2016, universities will be able to set the price of fees, and the Commonwealth’s support for a degree will be cut by 20 per cent.
The Government will also charge an interest rate on FEE-HELP loans to reflect the cost of government borrowings.
The minimum income threshold which people have to begin repaying their debt will be lowered by 10 per cent to about $50,000.
University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker is vehemently opposed to the policy.
“I just think it’s bad policy, I think it’s unethical for one generation that largely went through university free to pose such debt on future generations,” he said.
But the Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Young says the overhaul will create a more competitive industry.
“I think you’ll get a range of different fees and I think you’ll see institutions starting to say we can offer different sorts of degrees that students might find more valuable,” he said.
If there is one thing both universities can agree on, it is that a price hike is inevitable.
University fees predicted to reach record high levels
The architect of the original HECS loans scheme which allowed tertiary students to pay back their university fees once employed, believes the changes will lift fees to record high levels.
Professor Bruce Chapman from the ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy anticipates prestigious universities will be first to hike fees.
He says some courses could cost more than $100,000.
“They are allowed to go up to the level of international fees and I would think that’s kind of a rough bench mark where the most market-orientated and powerful institutes will go,” said Professor Chapman.
However ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young says the predictions of fees reaching more than $100,000 are wrong.
“There will be an increase, almost certainly in terms of students contributions,” he said.
“But I think these ideas of $200,000 or even $150,000 that people are bantering around, I think there’s very little evidence that this will be the case.”
UC vice-chancellor Stephen Parker says smaller universities such as the University of Canberra will be forced to compete with long-standing ‘sandstone’ institutes.
“If obviously the ANU decided to raise it’s fees significantly we’d have to assess what our market is and the kind of students we’d like to attract here,” Professor Parker said.
Student anger over the Government’s plans is mounting with the ANU Student Association already flagging protests.
Labor has also indicated it is likely to block the proposed changes in the Senate. (ABC News)