Budget 2014

Earlier this week the federal government delivered the latest budget – it will be devastating for students and graduates like us. There will huge changes to the higher education sector which will result in massive increases in fees for students with some experts predicting costs to triple. In addition to this, a 6% interest rate will now be applied on HECS debts.

The government has decided to implement a US style system deregulating fees and allowing universities to charge whatever they want. It is a fundamental attack on the egalitarian principles that underpin our society. It will hurt students from disadvantaged backgrounds the most, put up barriers to accessing higher education and destroy years of reforms to make universities accessible to all.

Today the average graduate will take almost 10 years to pay off their debt – imagine how many decades of debt graduates will be left with under these changes. Bruce Chapman, an expert who designed the HECS system, believes that our fees will triple. Do the math. With three times as much debt and a 6% interest rate, who knows how long it will take the average graduate to pay off this debt.  I choose to go to university because I enjoy studying and want to learn more. I shouldn’t have to worry about how much my degree will cost me and whether it will be worth it.

Many students including myself want to study at a post graduate level. Deciding wether you want to study a post graduate course will become a decision that’s more about your capacity to pay than your desire and your intelligence. What you study and for how long should be a decision governed only by your personal desire and academic merit. Under this proposal we will see price and whether you can afford to study becoming a factor in this decision.

The changes will affect every one of us. Your student union, UMSU, has taken a strong stance opposing these fee increases. We will be taking that fight to the streets and the Independent senators whose support the government will require to make these changes. They are a fundamental attack on students and the principle that what you study is based on academic merit and your personal preference – not the size of your bank balance.

There’s a lot you can do to help stop this. UMSU is committed to running a campaign that will push back against this and we will work with other student unions around the country to fight this. You can help by signing our petition, attending the demonstrations that will be organised, or coming to our mass student forums. Keep checking our website to find out more and make sure that you’ve signed up to our mailing list. This legislation isn’t going to pass without a fight! If you want to know more about what these changes mean for you, get in contact with me.

Declan McGonigle
President, University of Melbourne Student Union