This article is from the March 29 issue of The Australian Digital Edition.
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Renewed call to end loan fee inequity
By Julie Hare. Higher Education Editor.
The private higher education lobby has renewed its calls on the federal government to create a level playing field for all university students by making student loan fees consistent in the upcoming federal budget.
The Council of Private Higher Education says the current 25 per cent loan fee students is inequitable and disadvantages the 50,000 students who undertake their higher education studies in institutions other than the 37 public universities.
In a letter to the Prime Minister and members of Cabinet, Simon Finn the new head of COPHE described getting rid of the 25 per cent loan fee as “a critical equity reform”.
“This inequity creates a financial disincentive for students to study in a non-commonwealth funded course and treats students differently based on the nature of their education provider.
Since 2003 governments have maintained the inequity,” Mr Finn wrote.
Mr Finn told the HES that while he considered private education providers should have equal access to the commonwealth support scheme as proposed by then-Education Minister Christopher Pyne in 2014, the sector was aware that budget pressures would make this unlikely.
However, he said, the loan fee was a fundamental equity issue.
“Australian higher education students deserve a level playing field and seek government support that enables them to study at their education provider of choice without financial penalty,” Mr Finn wrote.
Last year, the Grattan Institute published a report calling for a single 15 per cent loan fee for all higher education students. The report’s author, Andrew Norton, argued the fee would help cover the cost of interest payments for the government.
However, his proposal was widely rejected by university and student groups which argued the 15 per cent fee would simply increase costs for students without a corresponding increase in quality of their education.
The National Tertiary Education Union has argued that imposing loan fees on public university students would financially benefit wealthy students whose parents could afford to pay tuition fees upfront thereby avoiding the fee.
There are around 120 non-publicly funded higher education providers which educate around 10 per cent of students, he said.
“COPHE believes that the introduction of a single income contingent loan scheme that removes the loan fee inequity is the single biggest higher education priority for the 2017 federal budget,” he wrote.
Copyright 2017 The Australian