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01 July 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
An overhaul to the cost of university degrees to drive students into ‘job-relevant’ courses has left Wimmera year-12 students divided as they near the end of their schooling careers.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said reforms to university fees would help fill demand in job growth areas as the country grapples rising unemployment.
Changes will see fees for agriculture and mathematic degrees drop as much as 62 percent, while health and education-based degrees will decrease 42 percent.
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Students wishing to undertake a humanities degree will face a fee increase of 113 percent and law and commerce, 28 percent.
Horsham College year-12 student Cameron Marcroft plans to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science in 2022 after taking a gap year.
He said the restructure to fees was a welcomed change.
“I will be able to get my HECS debt paid off a lot faster and I won’t have anywhere near us much economic stress once I graduate from university,” he said.
“It’s also more encouraging to do next level studies, like honours and masters, as well if it’s a bit cheaper.”
Cameron said he hoped the changes would incentivise more students to consider studying agriculture.
“It will likely get more people involved in agriculture, which is also very encouraging,” he said.
“It’s definitely a growth area – Australia is at the forefront for a lot of the new technology with new farming practices because the country faces a lot of difficulties, particularly with climate change.
“We need to come up with new technology to be able to modify crops that can grow with less water.”
Stawell Secondary College year-12 student Isobel Skene plans to study a Bachelor of Film and Photography at RMIT in Melbourne next year.
She said it was concerning that fees had more than doubled for her choice of degree.
“It’s pretty daunting, I don’t have much in the way of financial support besides money I’ve earned,” she said.
“I might have to look at study part-time and get a job to support myself with it.”
She said she believed the government could have taken a different approach.
“I feel like there was definitely a better way to go about it or another plan the government could have implemented to benefit people more evenly,” she said.
“It’s 2020, we should all be able to decide where we want to go.
“We should study something we have a passion for and not just because we need to support ourselves.
“I really love photography and being able to capture moments. I have a passion and want to pursue it.”
Isobel’s peer, year-12 student Caitlyn Russell, plans to study nursing next year.
She said the lowering of fees for nursing students ‘solidified’ her choice.
“When I first heard about the changes, a lot of people were giving me encouragement. It being cheaper is definitely beneficial and will put less stress on me,” she said.
“I’ve been interested in nursing since a young age. A lot of influences made me want to pursue a job in the health sector and nursing seemed the best fit for me.”
But Caitlyn said she believed there needed to be more equality for students who had alternative career goals.
“It seems like they’re putting more priority on the essential services – it just doesn’t seem fair to people with other interests,” she said.
Fee increases will not be implemented for courses students are already undertaking.
Education Minister Dan Tehan also announced an extra 39,000 university places for Australian students would be funded by 2023.
The government expects a higher percentage of year-12 students, who usually defer university, will be less likely to take a gap year because of travel restrictions and a poor jobs market.
The entire July 1, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!