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Budget 2004: Budget fails the test for higher education.

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DEMOCRATS MEDIA 04/382 WEDNESDAY 12 MAY 2004 SENATOR NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS HIGHER EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON BUDGET FAILS THE TEST FOR HIGHER EDUCATION Once again, the Howard Government has ignored calls from the higher education sector for reinvestment, more student places and fairer indexation, according to the Australian Democrats. "Higher education has been ignored in this year's Budget with no relief for students in relation to income support, and HECS increases adding even further pressure and disincentive," Democrats Higher Education spokesperson Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said. "The meagre improvement to scholarships announced in this Budget does little to ease students’ financial burden, nor improve income support for the 70 per cent of students working two days a week during the semester. “Add to this the abolition of Educational Textbook Subsidy Scheme (ETSS), which after July 1, will see textbook costs increasing by up to 10 per cent, HECS increases of 25 per cent at many universities from next year and a 20 per cent fee charged on FEE-HELP loans for undergraduates - the Howard Government is treating students with contempt. "The announcement of the exemption of fee-waiver scholarships from the social security income test is welcome, but why did the Government stop at fee-waiver scholarships when we know adequate student income support is the best way of improving the participation rate of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds?" "Last night's budget also does not deliver the increases that are needed to significantly improve our national R&D investment and may see Australia fall further behind the OECD average. "The lack of support for universities' research infrastructure will place strain on university budgets. Under Backing Australia's Ability 2, funding for research infrastructure will not be maintained at real levels from 2005-06, and in fact it drops by $24 million in 2006-07. "The Democrats support the calls from the AVCC, student and staff groups, for increased research funding, more student places in 2005 and more adequate indexation. This Government's record on higher education will be an election issue." Media Contact - Kate Griffith - 0417 085 260