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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Rural uni students to suffer from fee deregulation

Deniliquin community members are concerned about the proposed deregulation of university fees in the Federal Government's budget.

CASS SAVELLIS May 30, 2014 3:40am

Students already struggling to make their way through university may be further disadvantaged because of the Federal Government’s budget cuts.

It this month’s Federal Budget, the Coalition announced a deregulation of university fees from 2016.

With Australian universities able to set their own fees, some course prices may increase dramatically making it even more difficult for tertiary students to afford the cost of living.

Rural students are expected to be hardest hit, according to Deniliquin High School careers teacher Pam Sinha.

She believes universities will become a ‘‘domain of the rich’’.

‘‘I have already spoken to a couple of students who are on their gap year and they are extending these to another year in anticipation of the hike in fees,’’ she said.

‘‘They want to continue earning money until they can save enough to accommodate the rise in costs.

‘‘There’s talk that some areas of tertiary education will be unaffected and remain relatively stable, such as allied health, while other areas like nursing, teaching, visual and performing arts and social studies are all set to increase.

‘‘Top universities are going to be charging big money for their popular courses.

‘‘I’m nervous about facing this uncertainty when my own daughter starts making decisions about her future in 2016. The great social divide will continue to gape.’’

Deniliquin student Erin Smith, who is studying community development at La Trobe University in Bendigo, said it was ‘‘frightening’’ that universities would soon have the power to decide how much they charge students.

‘‘For rural students, we are already at a disadvantage. If we want a tertiary education we have no choice than to move to regional and city centres,’’ she said.

‘‘As most people know there isn’t just university fees and subject costs, there are costs associated with accommodation and day to day living expenses.

‘‘For many, the Higher Education Loan Program debt may not mean much because you don’t start paying it off until you’re starting above a certain (pay) threshold.

‘‘But if you think 10 years down the track when you’re wanting to buy a new car or take out a loan for a house, who knows what your HELP debt will look like if it’s regulated by individual universities.’’

Miss Smith said although fees may increase, prospective university students can look to local organisations for assistance.

‘‘I don’t want to scare people; attending university has been one of the best things I have experienced,’’ she said.

‘‘I know for a fact I wouldn’t be at university if it weren’t for the local organisations like the Edward River Country Education Fund helping to alleviate the financial burden.

‘‘I urge you all to start thinking about the future and finding ways to help these local organisations who issue scholarships — it will only be a matter of time before you need them.’’

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