Student loans: one size doesn’t fit VET

I wasn’t the only one pointing out problems (CMM September 18) with VET student loans last week, Claire Field writes

NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Geoff Lee, expressed concern about the more generous HECS-HELP loans creating a “perverse incentive” and steering students away from VET and into university.

It is not just the more favourable HECS-HELP loans which create problems for VET students and providers. There are other issues.

For example, Sydney-based students unable to access one of the small number of diploma places available at university and backed by a HECS-HELP loan have other options. If they want to do a diploma of business they can borrow:

* $5,171 through the VSL scheme to study at TAFE NSW and pay the remainder of the $6,400 tuition fee upfront (or hope to be eligible for some state government funding to offset the additional cost), or

* $31,000 through the FEE-HELP loan scheme, which is the cost of studying the diploma at UTS Insearch.

These are not anomalies peculiar to these institutions. The same disparities are evident right across the country.

Further issues emerge when you look at the differences in state government funding for VET.

As VET reviewer Steven Joyce found,  the diploma of nursing receives “subsidies of $19,963 in Western Australia, $16,388 in Victoria, $10,250 in New South Wales, $8,990 in the Australian Capital Territory and $8,218 in Queensland – a difference of $11,745 between Western Australia and Queensland.”

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education.


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