The Australian | 20 December 2013
University student fees could be hiked by as much as 66% in some cases under a proposal from the Innovative Research Universities predicated on expectations that government funding will be flat at best or cut in the long term.
In its submission to the review of the demand driven system of university places, the IRU recommends that the review “explore the value” of lifting the maximum student contribution in the various disciplinary bands to match the top band, which charges $10,085 a year for medicine, dentistry law, accounting and business courses.
That would represent a 17 % from $8,613 a year for science, computing, engineering, agriculture and allied health students, and a 66 % rise from $6,044 a year for humanities, social science, language, art and nursing students.
Only about 23% of full time bachelor student load is currently charged at the highest rate, the so-called band three level.
IRU executive director Conor King said the proposal recognised that given the budget pressure, extra government money for the sector was unlikely but that the sector remained underfunded as it is.
He said increasing costs to students could only be justified if it delivered a net gain in funding for the sector to benefit student learning, rather than simply being a straight substitute for government funding.
The IRU argues there is no strong rationale for the difference in fees whether in terms of relative cost of delivery or in the generalised potential earnings power of graduates from different disciplines
The submission notes that while the increase in fees would boost the debt owed to government from the HELP income contingent loan scheme, the key to keeping the scheme sustainable isn’t the absolute size of the outstanding debt but the individual size of the debts owed by students. And it argues in that sense, if the system can sustain $10,085 a year for some students, it should be able to sustain it at that level for all students.
If the band three level is sustainable for students of business and accounting units it should be sustainable for students enrolled in other disciplines.