“More paying more” the rise and rise of student charges

“Originally HECS was simple. Each student paid the same for every subject, about $3,800 in current terms.” Not anymore. The Innovative Research Universities argues why the new model is a bad idea

The IRU charts the changes in student contributions to degree costs over-time to demonstrate how dramatic are the government’s proposed changes. In 1989, a business student (and all others) was up for $3 800 in 2020 dollars – the feds want to hike this for bizoid kids to $14 500 a year.

“The changes show thirty years of governments consistently lifting student charges and placing more subjects into the highest band, mixed with targeted reductions for priority disciplines,” the IRU observes.

But the ups and downs (mainly ups) of what students paid over-time is not the IRU’s particular point. Rather, its paper sets out why the government’s “four extreme rates” aren’t necessary.

“It is possible to take the grouping of disciplines it proposes and, at no cost to students, universities or government, moderate the changes so that no unit is subject to a charge higher than the current top rate. This would still reduce the charge for the proposed two lower bands but not as much as the government proposes. The low charge is simply not necessary to attract students.”

Not only unnecessary but harmful, warns the IRU.

Charging students greatly different amounts for the benefit of their degree either punishes them for pursuing their interests or encourages them to choose something that interests them less. If the result is that students change their natural choice, it will reduce longer term productivity; a loss not just to them but to all of us.

“This is the risk from the government’s proposed changes. They would widen the current two-fold gap between the cheaper disciplines and the most expensive. The government would make this a fourfold difference.”