DEGREE OF COST: Like their contemporaries around the country, Southern Cross University student will be facing a rise in fees in 2018.
DEGREE OF COST: Like their contemporaries around the country, Southern Cross University student will be facing a rise in fees in 2018. Alina Rylko

Student fees rise by degrees

STUDENTS at Southern Cross University are set to face higher fees from January next year thanks to the Turnbull Government's re-jig of the higher education sector.

Under proposed changes, student fees will rise 7.5 per cent by 2021 and estimated changes will save $2.8 billion over four years.

Details from the proposed May budget show the Federal Government plans to increase student fees and require graduates to pay black loans faster while deprive university funding of hundreds of millions dollars.

The Government claimed these changes will mean a price rise of between $2,000 and $3,600 for a four-year undergraduate degree.

But SCU vice-chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker said it was simply an attempt to gouge funds out of universities.

"The amount being clawed back by the Government is around $2.8 billion and this is almost the amount squandered by the VET fee fiasco,” he said.

"The majority of SCU students work part or full-time, so they are already paying for their courses as well as taxes and do not deserve the extra financial burden.

Professor Shoemaker said 70% of SCU students come from families whose parents have not attended higher education.

"Most of these people are an average age of 24 to 25 and we are creating a lot opportunities for people who are already working as well as studying, so are already tax payers,” he said.

"If everyone in the nation kicks in for budget repairs, then we will wear it, but it's not ethical when students who are on the edge financially, it's not fair to make them kick in.”

Professor Shoemaker said another issue is the repayment threshold is too low, as from July 2018 students will have to start paying back their loans when they reach an income level of $42,000 per year, down from the current level of about $55,000.

"The minimum wage is close to $35,000 and the tax-free threshold has gone up, so why would this go down,” he said.

"You don't want to bankrupt future generations.”

SCU is more than a university, it is a significant element of the Lismore and Northern Rivers community, he said.

"In the middle of the flood recovery and reconstruction we were happy to welcome the business community into out campus as an evacuation centre and yet we don't turn around and send a bill to the Federal Government,” he said.

"This is a sad state of affairs.”

The lowered repayment threshold is of concern to SCU student Karlyn Major.

Ms Major, 26, who wanted to improve her career prospects left her full-time work and has been studying digital media and communications.

"I think the prosed changes are not fair,” she said.

"When I graduate i will have a reduced salary until I build up my career and this lower salary proposal does not allow you a grace period to get back on your feet before you are at a level before you start paying back.”

Meanwhile, treasurer Mr Morrison said the rise in fees is a "good deal for students”.

"While tax payers pay the majority of a student's education, they (the students) are also paying a significant proportion of their education under the HELP scheme,” he said.

"They get a good deal, a good education.”

However, deputy opposition leader and shadow minister for education, Tanya Plibersek disagreed.

"To propose a $50 billion big business tax cut while jacking up student fees and cutting support to universities just makes no sense,” she said.

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