Budget Targets Students: Fee Increases & Funding Cuts

Note: Opinions expressed are solely that of the author and are not reflective of The Tertangala or the University of Wollongong.

The Liberal’s once again have students in their cross-hairs with an announcement that the Budget will include a 7.5% fee increase and a $2.8 billion cut to higher education. These figures emerge as the Liberals scramble to justify plans to hand over a $50 billion tax cut to businesses.

Speaking to the Tertangala, National Union of Students Education Officer Anneke Demanuele said, “The Liberals have declared war on students…Most students are already living below the poverty line and now we’re being asked to pay more for degrees while the government is gutting penalty rates that most uni students barely survive on”.

Senator Simon Birmingham has announced an ‘efficiency dividend’ which will include funding cuts of $2.8 billion and tie future funding to graduate performance. This is expected to put greater pressure on universities to introduce cost-cutting mechanisms like trimesters, increased class sizes and cuts to courses.

“Universities have gone from being centres of education to centres of profit. We know exactly what Birmingham’s ‘efficiency dividend’ will mean. It’ll lead to more courses cut, more content moved online and teaching and administrative staff fired. University used to be free in Australia and it could be again if the government started taxing the rich instead of stealing money from universities to pay for corporate tax breaks”, argues Demanuele.

The National Union of Students has called protests around the country to oppose fee increases.

(Image courtesy of Make Education Free Again)

The Government also plans to lower the repayment threshold to $42,000 so that students start paying back their debt sooner. This will mean people earning as little as $7,000 above minimum wage will have to pay down their debt even if employed in a low-paying job where they are not using their degree.

National Union of Students President Sophie Johnston, speaking to media earlier in the day, says the Turnbull Government is abandoning young people.
“Over the last three months we have had a number of attacks on welfare which have been disproportionately impacting young people and now our education system is being absolutely gutted.”

Students are now preparing for protests in major cities around the country to build opposition to the Budget.

“We did this in 2014 and we defeated deregulation and we will defeat any attacks in 2017,” Johnston declared.

At The University of Wollongong (UOW), education activists have called a speak-out on May 16 at 1:30 to highlight opposition to the Liberal’s plans. UOW education activist and undergrad Ceridwen Bush says the protests are the only way to beat rising fees.

“It’s important to protest because that’s the only way the Government listens. They’d be happy to see education debt skyrocket as high as a mortgage, that’s why they tried to deregulate the sector. The only thing between students and a lifetime is debt is our power to disrupt, protest and send a message to politicians that they can’t get away with this.”

UOW students protesting for free education.

(Image courtesy of Make Education Free Again)

Feature image courtesy of Make Education Free Again.