If you are from Australia, you will have heard the news that this years budgets brings about an awful change for those wanting to study – the introduction of uncapped University Fees. It is crazy that your degree may cost you more than a house. It is scary for me to work out how I will send our kids to University. This has been going on in other Countries such as the US for years. Introducing it here, will cause a lot of hardship, and it will become Education for the Rich. Unlike the States we have a limited number of institutions, all doing it hard with budget cuts, funding cuts and increasing costs for running any sort of business. I just don’t see how we can adopt such a system, when the cost of living in Australia is already one of the highest in the world.
The reality is the University is a business. I heard on the radio this morning Deakin advertising a price freeze if you apply and get in for Semester 2 this year. Smart, savvy, business move. Suddenly, universities can attract students by pricing it right.
But what does this mean for the average student? The cost of my 4 year undergraduate degree 15 years ago, was less then my 1.5 year Masters. My PhD was covered by a HECS exemption (so I didn’t have to pay for it). My degree was affordable. Now you are looking at one semester costing the same as my Masters (if you are lucky!). So let’s do some Math.
Let’s say a 3 year science degree costs you at least $70,000-$100,000. If you are lucky you can get a HELP-debt, so you pay it off as you work. There is on average now a 6 month lag between graduating and finding a job. You then get job on $55-60,000 a year (again if you are lucky). You are looking at paying off your debt over many many years (I would say 20-30 years). Add in a Phd, where you will come out at around $75,000 a year – you may pay it off faster, but not by much. All this time your debt accumulates a small interest fee (not as high as a home loan), and your take home pay is noticeable reduced.
Then add in cost of living, trying to buy a home, costs of raising kids, and it is making the degree look a lot less desirable.
I don’t have an answer for this. It is a watch and see approach. We have to watch what the Universities do, what the government does and how this will change the faces of University. Numbers will drop as more kids opt to do a vocation and earn money faster. PhD graduates will reduce, which may be a benefit in the world of research where jobs are scarce. There is an argument everyone has a degree these days, that there are too many qualified people out there. However, if you don’t have the basics, a potential employer may not look at your resume. So it is a catch 22. Australian Unis need to keep prices capped, and education available to all.