Image Description: A student graduate wearing graduation robes and a mortarboard faces away. Three green dollar signs are placed over the left side of the image.

 

By Courtney Withers

 

University course prices doubled. Arts degrees now more expensive than STEM subjects. Domestic student places boosted. Plan to deter Humanities students.

 

These are just some of the headlines surrounding the announcement of changes to University fees from Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan on June 18th, and how it will affect students in 2021.

 

The Federal Government announced on Thursday their plan to lower the cost of “job-relevant” courses, and increase the price of Humanities, Commerce, and Law degrees.

 

The “job-relevant” courses that will be cheaper in 2021 include “subjects in nursing, psychology, English, languages, teaching, agriculture, maths, science, health, environmental science, and architecture”, with a funded expansion on 39,000 places.

 

With the extensive blow to the University’s revenue from the lack of international students, the Government stated their motivations to boost domestic enrolments with this initiative.

 

As Tehan has said previously, he wants students to “binge on studying… rather than bingeing on Netflix”, and the Government thinks this plan will encourage students to do so.

 

With travel restrictions still in place, it is unlikely that 2020 school leavers will be able to take that ‘Contiki’ Gap Year trip next year, and will be most likely to commence their tertiary education. It is estimated that 20,000 Year 12 students who defer study after their last year of school, are now looking to go to university next year.

 

This increase in students studying next year has motivated the Government to frame and entice certain types of degrees.

 

The Government has announced that these changes will affect degrees for 2021 in the following ways:

 

  • Law and Commerce degrees will have a 28% increase in cost
  • Humanity degrees will increase by 113%
  • Agriculture and Maths degrees will decrease by 62%
  • Teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, English and languages degrees will decrease by 46%
  • Science, health, architecture, environmental science, IT and engineering degrees will decrease by 20%

 

The hardest area hit of all these degrees are the humanities courses, now costing the same as a law or commerce degree at $14,500 a year.

 

These changes were initiated by the situation of COVID-19, and the aim to increase the employment rates of students after they graduate.

 

Although stated previously from several government bodies that the current Year 12s will not be disadvantaged in their studies, and that Mr Tehan wants students to go to University next year, this initiative greatly affects the ability of some students to do what they had originally planned.

 

It not only affects the cost of their degrees, but affects all of the previous work and planning of what students were intending to study at University.

 

Senate Crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie, whose vote will be paramount in passing the package, told The Guardian that targeting humanities course was “grossly unfair” to students who had already made decisions about their preferences for next year, before these fee changes were announced.

 

Although Mr Tehan stated that degrees “will be cheaper if they choose to study in areas where there is expected growth in job opportunities,” this just might not be viable for some students.

 

I know for me personally, I was always set on doing a humanities degree, and did as many humanities subjects at school as I could to prepare. This definitely would have been a sledgehammer to my decision making for what I would study at university, and would have forced me to consider another option if the cost of the degree was going to be so high.

 

Year 12 students have already been under enormous amounts of pressure this year, completing their final year of school during a global pandemic.

 

For many the online, then face to face changes, coupled with the doubts about their  exams, has leant 2020 to be a perfect storm. This announcement now makes it a tsunami as students see the dreams rise in cost just as they finish semester one exams.

 

Some might have wanted to study law, and others might have wanted to do commerce. This fee increase might just make their prospect of reaching their dream career goal unattainable.

 

Although the slashing of prices of some degrees to entice more students is justifiable in this current situation, many students will now have to reconsider what they were planning on studying because of the increase in prices of other degrees.

 

However, the Federal Education Minister did state these changes to fees would not affect current students and their fee payments.

 

“Importantly, no current student will be worse off,” Tehan says.

 

“No current student will pay an increased student contribution. Their fee contributions will be grand-fathered.”

 

This change will greatly affect students wanting to study at UWA next year. On one hand, the decrease in pricing of some degrees will assist students in paying for their tertiary education, but in other cases, will increase their costs of paying for tertiary education in an already trying time.

 

I spoke to UWA Guild President Bre Shanahan about the announcement of the changes to University fees, and where The Guild stood on this issue.

 

“The UWA Student Guild is extremely disappointed by the announcement of pricing hikes for up to 113% for students studying arts, commerce and humanities,” Bre said.

 

“While the proposal has lowered fees for some students, it is at the expense of hundreds of thousands of students whose disciplines are not considered “job-relevant”.

 

Bre said that this decision is another “addition to a long list of failures by the Government to step up to save higher education” and was concerned about how students will be affected.

 

“Universities across the country are facing losses of up to $6 billion. It is unconscionable to force students to pay up for the pandemic,” Bre said.

 

“This move will serve to further entrench underlying educational inequity. Students should not be funnelled into degrees the Government has labelled as “job-relevant”.

 

“Students should not be forced to pick pursuing studies they are truly passionate about or avoiding significant debt brought about by a Government that refuses to invest in higher education.”

 

Bre stated that a copy of The Guild’s media release can be accessed here.

 

“I encourage all students to attend our open meeting [today], with the Curtin Student Guild, to oppose these changes and pave the way forward for fully funded higher education,” Bre said.

 

The University itself has not yet commented on the announcement from the Federal Education Minister, and how this will affect students in 2021, so it will be interesting to see what is said about these changes.

 

To stay up to date with how UWA responds to this Government announcement, refer to the ‘University News’ section on their website.

 

 

Courtney probs won’t get a job at the end of her degree, but thinks that studying humanities has been a fun time.

 

Picture courtesy of The University of Western Australia.