Students to fight for the future

Students protest against proposed higher fees for university students. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d420153
Students protest against proposed higher fees for university students. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d420153

Under the proposed changes, students will have to pay more for their degrees, face a higher interest rate on student debt and pay back their loans sooner.

‘We need to continue to protest to ensure that education remains a right and does not become a privilege,’ Mr Cavallaro said.

‘The National Union of Students is already organising for another protest and there are always opportunities to show our dissatisfaction with the current government as Liberal MPs travel the country trying to sell this budget.’

From 2016, universities will be able to set their own tuition fees, which Mr Cavallaro said would shift the Australian education system more towards the American model.

‘In the US, university students look forward to a two-tiered system where the prestigious ivy-league universities are the preserve for a rich minority,’ he said.

‘A system where students from poor and working class backgrounds must fork out tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to study at second rate colleges.

‘It is a system where getting a degree means getting a mortgage and taking on a lifetime of ever increasing debt and it is a system where even after becoming qualified, after spending thousands of dollars and diving into an ocean of debt, the job market is highly competitive and graduate unemployment is skyrocketing.’

The Federal Government is also increasing student loan interest rates by up to 6 per cent, instead of remaining at the rate of inflation.

From July 2016, students will have to repay loans when they earn more than $50,638 a year.

Mr Cavallaro said the changes would extend the gap between rich and poor.

‘Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds will be the hardest hit,’ he said.

‘They will be blocked from some universities because of fees, while still having to take on huge debts to get minimal qualifications,’ he said.

Hundreds of students took to Murray Street Mall on Wednesday to participate in a nationwide student protest called by the National Union of Students.

‘We want to send a message to the Liberals not to mess with students, and exert pressure on Labor and the Greens so that they don’t make any dodgy deals with them,’ Mr Cavallaro said.

‘We need to show the government that students are not just soft targets. We need to show our opposition to this budget loudly and publicly.’

A spokesman for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said students currently paid, on average, about 40 per cent of their education costs.

‘Over their lifetime, graduates may earn around a million dollars more than if they had not gone to university,’ the spokesman said.

‘It is only reasonable that given this, students contribute their fair share to the cost of their education.’

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said announcements signalled significant changes to higher education policy in Australia.

‘Curtin, like all other universities, is carefully working through the details in order to fully understand the implications of the full range of new policy parameters, including fee deregulation,’ Ms Terry said.

‘We will be consulting broadly as we formulate our response, which will be based on our strong commitment to ensuring that we continue to support a diverse student body and deliver high-quality research outcomes.’