Last year, the education sector was rocked by the Higher Education Reform Package, which proposed some major changes for university students, both past and present. Budget 2018, unveiled on Tuesday evening, didn’t quite have the same impact, but it’s worth becoming familiar with the proposed changes, so you know what lies ahead if they do eventuate.
It was revealed last year through a Deloitte analysis, that universities have been over-funded, primarily because course delivery isn’t as costly as estimated. This year, the focus is still on reducing spending on higher education, to improve its sustainability. On the bright side, the government will continue to analyse how tax dollars are spent, to make sure education institutions are operating fairly. They’ve also shifted a lot of focus to providing students at a disadvantage – particularly those living in rural areas – with a step up.
Here’s a rundown:
Freeze on funding increases
Perhaps the biggest change for universities, is a freeze on funding increases year-to-year. Previously, funding was linked to demand – the more students, the more money given over to fund their studies. Therefore, funding in 2018/19 will remain the same as 2017, regardless of student numbers.
Once we reach 2020, the funding increases will recommence based on such factors as population growth. However, with an election coming up later this year, there’s the possibility of the Labour party reclaiming office, and their plan is to switch back to demand-driven funding.
Lowered loan repayment threshold
The government proposed last year in the reform package, that people with study debts would have to pay them back sooner, to help reduce the overall debt on our country’s shoulders. It was originally proposed that once a person’s salary hits $42,000, they’d have to begin repayments on their study debt.
This year, that amount has been bumped up to $45,000 – so lower income earners can breathe a little easier, but compared to the previous repayment threshold of around $55,000, this will still mean that many fresh graduates will be paying back their debts from day one of entering the workforce.
Less Commonwealth Supported Places:
Essentially, a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) is a student place, where the government pays for a portion of the study fees, and the student contributes the rest. These places will now become more difficult to attain – there will be less opportunity for those studying a diploma, associate degree, or postgraduate degree.
Ability to loan more:
Previously, there was an $100,000 lifetime limit for FEE-HELP study loans, which means that once a student hits the $100,000 mark, they can no longer use FEE-HELP to fund their studies. Now, students can continue to loan money up to the limit. They’re free to pay off some of their debt, then borrow up to the limit again.
More support for rural students:
For those living in remote areas, more funding will be allocated to ensure they’re getting access to high quality education. There will be more funding devoted to getting people enrolled, and more subsidised CSP places for regional universities, and students studying through a Regional Study Hub.
Whether the 2018 Budget means good news for you, or not-so-good news, there is still a clear focus on improving the accessibility of higher education. Accessibility is important to us too – in fact, it’s at the heart of our organisation. Whoever and wherever you are – regardless of your academic background – our door is always open to you.