Orientation Week and Higher Education Cuts

 

Orientation Week at the University of Newcastle is underway and providing students with lots of information about their exciting steps into tertiary education and campus life. But how much is their education going to cost them?

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I spent some time at the Uni’s Labor Club stall – just one of dozens of booths staffed with incredibly enthusiastic young people keen to encourage fellow students to be active in sport, health and art; to find out more about services and activities offered to students; and of course one of those interests for young students is often social cause or political activity.

By far the most common concern expressed to me by students was about the massive $5.8billion cut from higher education funding. This is occurring at the same time the Baird Liberal Government has slashed $1.7 billion from the NSW education system, including TAFE.

Every student who stopped to chat with me happily offered to sign the ‘No Debt Sentence’ petition, yet I was disturbed that very few seemed to have any idea of what the cost of their degrees will be.

In his 2014 budget reply speech, Labor leader Bill Shorten said:

“Labor will not support a system of higher fees, bigger student debt, reduced access and greater inequality. We will never tell Australians that the quality of their education depends on their capacity to pay.”

It concerns me deeply that the students I spoke with not only have no idea how much their tertiary education will ultimately cost them, they feel a sense of hopelessness. Repeatedly I was told, “Well, it’s just how it is, I can’t do anything about it.”

A good education is crucial to Australia’s future and I provide more information for you here on Labor’s plans to support and improve the education of young Australians. These plans include a target that by 2025, 40 per cent of all 25-to-34-year-olds will hold a bachelor's degree or above, and 20 per cent of undergraduate enrolments will be disadvantaged students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

I wish all of our new and continuing students at the University of Newcastle the very best with their studies and hope they fully enjoy this special time in their lives, but our students deserve better.

A degree shouldn’t be a debt sentence.