The federal government’s plans to more than double the cost of some university degrees is a “kick in the guts” for year 12 students who are already doing it tough, Labor argues.
The Opposition’s education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says she’s heard from many parents who have seen their kids go through the “year from hell” with remote learning disrupting their final year of school.
“(Parents) are saying what a kick in the teeth this is for their kids,” she told ABC radio on Friday.
“Kids who – in many cases – two, three, four years ago set their heart on a particular degree.
“This year being told that degree will more than double in price. It’s been a terrible kick in the guts and that’s what parents are telling me.”
Ms Plibersek had previously blasted university chiefs who backed the fee hikes, calling it a “corwardly act”.
“Young people and university staff have every right to feel betrayed. It’s a cowardly act that won’t be easily forgiven, especially by parents and Year 12 students whose final school year has been hell,” she said.
Under the changes, some humanities courses would more than double in cost in a bid to encourage people to enrol in courses the government argues lead to enhanced employment prospects.
Science and maths would be among the degrees made cheaper, along with agriculture, environmental sciences and health.
The Senate’s education committee is due to report on its inquiry into the bill on Friday, after only three weeks to run a fine tooth comb over it.
The government is negotiating closely with the Senate cross bench in a bid to pass the proposal, with numbers tight in the upper house.
Australia’s major universities want significant changes to the bill, but want to work with the government.
Group of Eight, which comprises Australia’s leading research intensive universities, fears the current plans will result in lower quality education because there will be more students paired with less university funding.
Meanwhile, Victoria has vowed to ensure every year 12 student isn’t disadvantaged because of the strict lockdowns enforced because of coronavirus.
Every student will be individually assessed so the impact of the virus will be reflected in their university entrance scores.
Students studying for VET qualifications will be guaranteed a free place at TAFE if they can’t complete courses this year because of lockdown.