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UMSU’s Response to Higher Ed Budget Proposal

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) is appalled by reports that the upcoming federal budget will contain university fee increases, a lowered HECS repayment threshold and funding cuts to universities.

Students will see a significant rise in course fees of 7.5%, while university funding will face a 2.5% cut. While student fees currently cover about 42% of the cost of a course, the Government will increase this to 46%. This means that for a four-year course, a student may need to pay an additional $3,600. In addition to this, the announced lowering of the HECS repayment threshold means that students will need to begin to repay their loans when they start earning $42,000 per annum, rather than the current $55,000.

These budget measures will have a catastrophic effect for students. The decrease of the HECS threshold will require students to repay their loans sooner and adversely affect students trying to achieve financial security in an unstable job market, dragging almost 200,000 extra graduates into the repayment system. And funding cuts reduce the quality of education while encouraging institutions to increase student fees.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham, through these budget measures, has shown that he is unaware of the realities students currently face. In an economy where a degree is increasingly worthless, it is ridiculous that students are expected to pay more. Graduate outcomes are not improving and graduates face a hostile job market. Increasing university fees in our current economic climate exploits students. It does nothing to improve the state of higher education or the prospects of graduates.

Furthermore, these cuts will disproportionately affect students from already disadvantaged backgrounds at a time when students face higher living costs than ever before. By increasing the barriers to higher education, students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, rural students, and more will be priced out of attending university.

Education Minister Birmingham uses the concerns of the average Australian to justify these cuts, stating that Australians want to know their tax dollars are being used effectively and efficiently. However, this simply shifts the issue away from the Government and onto universities, and does not provide a sustainable long term solution to the nation’s funding shortage. By pushing the economic burden onto already struggling students, we are disadvantaging the entire nation’s future.

UMSU also condemns the decision to exclude student media from the Budget Lock-up. Farrago, the University of Melbourne student publication, has attended the budget lock up in 2015 and 2016. Other student media organisations have been attending since 2014. Why is it that these organisations have been suddenly excluded this year, when there are measures present in the budget which will specifically and drastically affect students? The fact that the voices of those who will be most affected by these changes are being excluded from the discussion is extremely concerning.

UMSU stands against funding cuts, fee increases, and the lowering of the HECS-HELP repayment threshold. It also stands against the silencing of student voices in this important discussion. If these are things you feel passionately about, here are some ways you can get involved:

  • Listen to Radio Fodder’s live coverage of the budget, happening from 7:30pm on next Tuesday 9 May on http://radiofodder.com.
  • UMSU will be organising a contingent to the NUS’ National Day of Action on 17 May to protest these predicted budget cuts. Find out more here.
  • The UMSU Education department will be running a campaign to give students an opportunity to voice their opposition to the budget on postcards, which we will send to relevant MPs. Keep an eye out at our next Tuesday BBQ, or contact educationpublic@union.unimelb.edu.au to find out more.

Stand with us. We are powerful together.