THE Federal Government’s proposed higher education reforms will have a disproportionately negative impact on students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in the southern outer suburbs of Perth, says Brand MHR Madeleine King.
Ms King said the plans would affect hundreds of students each year who do not achieve the required ATAR but gain entry to Murdoch University by successfully completing a fee-free enabling program.
The Federal Parliament is debating $2.8 billion in cuts to university funding which will impose a student contribution on enabling programs.
Ms King said this would hit students who enter Murdoch’s OnTrack program.
The OnTrack program is a 14-week course that equips students with the research, writing and thinking skills necessary to successfully study at university.
More than 450 students this year (up from 296 in 2016) have taken advantage of OnTrack.
“It is estimated that charging fees for enabling programs will affect more than 350 students each year across Rockingham and Peel,” Ms King said.
“To rip up the opportunities and dreams of these students is, in my opinion, a national disgrace and should be reconsidered by the government.”
Jennifer Kelly from Waikiki applied for entry to Murdoch University as a mature age student through OnTrack. She is now completing a double degree in Biomedical Science and Clinical Laboratory Science.
Ms Kelly said it was important OnTrack remains fee-free because it means that anyone has the opportunity to apply for university.
Her aim is to work in medical research.
“I hope to be part of a team that discovers something amazing,” Ms Kelly said.
“I want to ensure that every person can live a full life, free of disease and illness.”
Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said taxpayer funding for universities had grown at twice the rate of the economy since 2009.
“Our reforms still see university teaching revenue grow by a further 23 per cent over the forward estimates, just growing at a more sustainable trajectory to ensure the ongoing viability of generous higher education funding and access,” he said.
“We’re expanding the demand-driven system and the taxpayer-funded student loan program to sub-bachelor courses where they translate into further qualifications and align with industry needs while ensuring that enabling places go to the institutions with the best record of helping students succeed.
“There’s no upfront cost for enabling courses and those students will be treated exactly the same as their peers doing other courses at university where the student loan program applies.”