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Monday, 24 November 2003
Page: 17471

To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.

The Petition of the undersigned draws to the attention of the Senate, concerns that increasing university fees will be inequitable.

Your petitioners believe:

(a) fees are a barrier to higher education and note this is acknowledged by the Government in the Higher Education at the Crossroads publication (DEST, May 2002, Canberra, para 107, p, 22);

(b) fees disproportionately affect key equity groups—especially indigenous, low socio-economic background and rural, regional and remote students—and note, participation of these groups improved from the early 1990s until 1996 but have subsequently fallen back to about 1991 levels (lower in some cases) following the introduction of differential HECS, declining student income, support levels, lower parental income means test and reduction of Abstudy;

(c) permitting universities to charge fees 30% higher than the HECS rate will:

a. substantially increase student debt;

b. negatively impact on home ownership and fertility rates;

c. create a more hierarchical, two-tiered university system; and

(d) expanding full fee paying places will have an impact on the principle that entry to university should be based on ability, not ability to pay.

Your petitioners therefore request the Senate act to ensure the principle of equitable access to universities remain fundamental to higher education policy and that any Bill to further increase fees is rejected.

by Senator Stott Despoja (from 110 citizens).