By GEORGETTE MARCH
University students paying their fees upfront will be hit with increased costs this year, after the Federal Government decided to halve the voluntary repayment discount.
Under the previous scheme, all voluntary repayments made by Commonwealth supported students of $500 or more attracted a 20 per cent discount, but since January 1 the discount has been halved to 10 per cent.
The move is expected to save the Federal Government $500m over the next four years.
Of 50 students interviewed from South Australian universities, 48 said they did not support the move.
The two students out of 50 who were not opposed to the repayments had no intention of repaying their education costs until they began earning the maximum threshold.
Amy Coombs, a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Disability Studies student at Flinders University, made a decision to defer university and work full-time with the intention of paying her fees upfront.
“For people like me who have worked and saved up that money to pay for university – it’s not fair… actually it’s just ridiculous,” she said.
Nick Mitris, a law student at Adelaide University, described the reduction in voluntary repayment as “fairly harsh”.
“But it will apply to all students at all universities so I guess it will be fair,” he continued.
A survey of a selection of 50 adults who were not currently studying produced different results, with 22 people in support of the reduction in discount.
Amongst them was a 37- year- old plumber, who did not wish to be named.
“All of us suffer under the budget every now and then,” he said.
“Why should students be any different?”
The government is entitled to alter the conditions upon which HECS is delivered to students.
The Federal Government justified their action by claiming the HECS repayment scheme was used by students with “wealthy parents”.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Chris Evans explained in an email to On the Record that the savings measures will assist the Government in strengthening its investment in creating extra student places within higher education.
“These extra places help ensure that all Australians, particularly those from low-income families, have the opportunity to participate in higher education,” he said.
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