Universities in Queensland will have their funding cut, in total, by more than $400 million. Griffith University in my electorate will have its funding cut by more than $85 million; the University of Queensland, just across the river, will have its funding cut by more than $96 million; and the Queensland University of Technology will have its funding cut by more than $89 million.
For current and future students of those universities these cuts will mean that teaching, student programs and university facilities will suffer.
Australian university students already pay the sixth highest fees in the OECD. But these cuts will mean that Australian students will be paying even more for a university education.
On top of that, students will have to start paying back their student loans earlier. The current threshold for earnings before being required to start HELP repayments is just under $55,000. The changes the Turnbull Government is proposing would see students who earn just $42,000, only $6,000 more than the minimum wage, required to start making repayments on their student HELP debt.
New graduates are under considerable stress already; starting new careers; some are starting families and looking for housing options; more financial stress is the last thing graduates need at this crucial time.
Graduates earning $51,000 will actually have less disposable income than workers earning just $32,000 (i.e. less than the minimum wage). Statistically it is more likely that women will suffer because of Malcolm Turnbull’s cruel change.
The lower re-payment threshold for HELP debts will also apply to TAFE and vocational students who took out VET FEE-HELP or VET student loans.
This Bill has been criticised by universities and academics. The peak body for universities in Australia, Universities Australia said that ‘an overwhelming majority of Vice-Chancellors could not recommend that the crossbench support this bill’.
Student groups are fiercely opposed to increases in fees and changes to loan repayments.
I strongly oppose these cuts to the university sector. Education is a wise investment not a cash cow for a hopeless government.