The Australian | 5 June 2013
With the likelihood of a Coalition government in a few months, there’s increasing focus on the impact of a change of g0vernment on the tertiary sector. At the first of the 2013 Tertiary Education Policy Seminars, Bruce Chapman, creator of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, said he expected a rise in student contributions (that is, fees), as occurred in 1996. While he expected it would have little or no impact on student demand because of the safety net provided by the delayed repayment system, Chapman said fee increases could deter mature-age and part-time students, many of whom come from poorer backgrounds (as occurred in 1996).
He noted large fee increases in Britain last year had led to only a 10% decline in applications, which he described as a “tiny” backlash to such a big rise.
Both Chapman and Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Young said that any prospect of higher fees would probably be met by the government cutting back its own contribution.
Although a fee increase would increase the cost to government as students took longer to repay their loans, any rise could well be accompanied by a cut in the government’s contribution. Chapman told the seminar that “there are colleagues who have talked about it as if higher charges means more revenue for the sector, but I don’t see any connection.
Young agreed, but went further, saying the debate over fee deregulation appeared to have run its course.
I think everyone now gets the idea that letting the market rip doesn’t actually work here. The rhetoric around that has largely disappeared. But I also suspect we won’t necessarily see such radical change in the system that some people might think.