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Raise HECS threshold now

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja

Australian Democrats

Employment, Higher Education and Youth Affairs Spokesperson 23 January 1998 MEDIA RELEASE 98/28


The drop in university applications and in tertiary entrance ranking scores (TER) at some universities willhave long term effects on Australia's future which must be addressed now, according to Senator NatashaStott Despoja, the Australian Democrats' Higher Education Spokesperson.Senator Stott Despoja said; "The Coalition has lowered the merit hurdle while raising the financial barriersto higher education."Senator Vanstone was forewarned that many Australians would be unable to afford a university placebecause of the Government's decision to increase university fees, but she blundered on regardless. The newMinister, Dr David Kemp, must act now to stop the slide."Reducing university fees, raising the HECS repayment threshold and an immediate funding boost, torestore the Coalition's devastating 6% funding cuts, are required immediately if we are to avoid a 'braindrain' from the clever country."The best indication of whether the price of a university education is too high, is the level of demand, orapplication numbers. Last year, applications for a university place fell by 3% in Queensland, 12% in SA,13% in Victoria, 15% in Tasmania, 17% in Western Australia, and 19% in New South Wales and the ACT."The largest drop in applications over the past two years has been from mature-age students. Last year, thenumber of mature age applications for a place in a Victoria university fell by 14.7%."Mature age students in low paid jobs are finding it impossible to further their careers through universitystudy thanks to the Coalition's $20,701pa HECS repayment threshold."The threshold is set well below average weekly earnings ($28,522), and has left many in low paid jobsunable to afford to even think about upgrading their skills because of the enormous, and immediate HECSpayments, they will incur."The Government must raise the $20,701 pa threshold at which graduates and students begin to repay theirdebt. The Government claims that graduates benefit financially, despite 20 years of declining graduatestarting salaries. Therefore, it is only fair that students should not be asked to repay their HECS debt untilthey earn an income above average weekly earnings."The Coalition are pushing poorer Australians out of tertiary education, and condoning falling TER scores.The places may all be filled in the end but those without the ability to pay have been shut out of education."I would have thought everyone knows education is the key to economic prosperity, but apparently theGovernment does not," concluded Senator Stott Despoja.For more information contact Senator Stott Despoja on 02 6277 3645A. U STRA LI ANEIVIUCRATS