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Pyne concedes higher education changes unsustainable

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, March 24, 2014. (AAP Image/Daniel Munoz) NO ARCHIVING

Education minister Christopher Pyne

Christopher Pyne’s consideration of collecting outstanding unpaid Higher Education Loans Programme (HELP, also commonly referred to as HECS) from the estates of former students is an admission that his changes to higher education funding and regulation are not only inherently inequitable but also unsustainable.

“NTEU analysis released earlier this week (How much should a uni degree cost?) shows that as result of Minister Pyne’s decision to lift the cap on university fees, together with an increase in the interest rate on outstanding HELP loans means that university graduates will incur much higher debts and take much longer to repay them,” said Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President.

“If the Government were to proceed with this measure it would mean that HELP would no longer be an income contingent loan scheme, unless of course you happen to be immortal. Perhaps the Minister has been watching too many zombie movies.

“Mr Pyne is rightly concerned that higher fees and debts and longer repayment times mean that the real cost of  HELP, that is the proportion debts not repaid by graduates over their working lives, will increase substantially to point where the whole scheme becomes financially unsustainable.

“Despite not admitting it publically, Mr Pyne knows from analysis he is not prepared to release that his new deregulated competitive higher education market will result in skyrocketing university fees and student debts. There is no other reason to explain why they would even consider imposing what would effectively be a death duty on graduates,” said Rea.

NTEU analysis released today (Cost and Debt Shifting in Higher Education) shows that the total level of outstanding HELP debt owed to government will be larger than the level of net Commonwealth debt.

“No wonder the rhetoric about wanting to ensure the student debt is not passed on to children and grandchildren of graduates sounds so much like the rhetoric around not wanting future generations of taxpayers burdened by Commonwealth debts,” Rea said.

“The unfairness and unsustainability of the Government’s demolition job on public higher education is becoming more apparent every day. Given that neither the Prime Minister of the Education Minister seem to understand or agree on what their higher education is or should be it is time for them to  rip it all up and start all over again.

“Christopher Pyne must immediately rule out death duties for university graduates, like Tony Abbott did this morning, and release his full government report into the impact of his policies on university students and their families,” Rea concluded.

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