Preface: These are just my thoughts, and my background is I’m from a low-income family currently receiving government benefits, I attend university on an academic scholarship. I do not support fee deregulation, however, as it most likely will pass, universities can do something else about it.
Universities - if they are truly supporting the idea of education to all, and supporting those who deserve to be there (the best students, and not just the wealthy) will have to consequently and substantially raise the number and amount of money awarded via scholarships.
This would be the key way to address the issue of students attending university for ‘useless degrees’ that do not lead to viable employment opportunities, students that are not yet ready to attend, and also those who attend merely because they have nothing else to do and do not want to work. This has undeniably led to excess numbers of sub-par graduates fresh from high school, lowering the standard and quality of teaching for all. At the same time, it will encourage hard working, bright, students to continue attending university.
[Just a note:I know a key criticism is that people want to go to university for ‘interests sake’ and not just to get a qualification to work but I personally think that’s not a worthy enough reason to put yourself in thousands of dollars of debt. If you truly wished to attend university for intellectual development, then do so by paying the heightened fees accordingly and accepting your debt, because I think such a desire would only arise once you have entered into the workforce, have enough money to comfortably pursue university, matured, and realised that your pursuit of knowledge may only be satisfied by attending university and not through other, possibly more meaningful, enjoyable methods like self-learning through the wonders of the Internet, travelling, or volunteering and talking to those more knowledgeable as some possible options.]
To address some key criticisms that I have read everywhere:
- How will scholarships be awarded? The VCE system awards rich private school kids who get high ATARs! - Yes, this is true, which is why we need to adapt the Gonski reforms aimed at addressing the imbalance at primary and high school levels. I am all for taking some funding out of universities to support high schools. Additionally, the scholarship criteria needs to be widened and varied including not just academic marks, but extra-curricular, family circumstances etc.
- Students don’t pay up front anyway! Deregulated fees won’t substantially affect the number of students deciding to go! - Well aren’t you lucky to not have to think about impending debt. Students that don’t think about their debt as a consideration when entering university need to perhaps re-evaluate. I know personally, despite being on capped fees until 2020, my studies may not be finished until afterwards as I am required to complete post-grad studies in order to be qualified as a psychologist. I am contemplating graduating early to go work as a lawyer, even when I don’t want to, in order to get money to fund what I really want to do because there is no way I can survive 4+ years of post grad when my parents will no longer be working and I will have to support them. Some of my friends have worked out it will take nearly 15+ years to pay off their degree, let alone at deregulated prices.
- You don’t even have to pay anything until you earn a certain amount! That’s true, but that certain amount will soon be lowered to $50,000. That is certainly below the average income of any decent graduate so it’s near certain that graduates will have to pay it back. And have you tried surviving on a $50,000 yearly income with a family? That’s what bracket my family falls into, and while we manage, it is certainly not something I would think was a worthy result from my investment of a degree.
…and this post is getting too long now, so I will continue it on my other blog if you’d like to continue reading.