Disability service organisations are concerned students with a disability won't have access to necessary services and support if planned changes to TAFE funding go ahead next year.
Representatives from several disability services met the NSW Teachers Federation in Sydney yesterday to discuss what the state government's Smart and Skilled program would mean for students with a disability undertaking vocational education and training (VET) courses.
NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said they feared the extra support for students with a disability would be one of the first things cut if TAFE institutes had to compete with private providers for funding.
"If you go into a competitive market model, what happens is you see services and courses that are expensive - they will fall by the wayside for the courses that are more profitable," he said.
"We believe the most vulnerable services in TAFE initially will be those community service obligations."
A draft report, released last month by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), also recommended that students with a disability pay a 10 per cent loading on the base price of a qualification because of the "typical additional cost associated with providing training to specific categories of higher-cost learners".
Greenacres Disability Service acting chief executive Susan Burns said reducing the support for disabled students or increasing their fees was unacceptable.
"I'm against any cuts that further marginalise students with a disability," she said.
"It's better now than it was years ago, but they still need that extra assistance.
"If they get those skills, they make wonderful employees - but they need the skills."
She said many students undertook VET courses as part of Greenacres' transition-from-school-to-work program. She was concerned they would be disadvantaged if they did not have extra support.
A spokesman from the Department of Education said the government would not be making any decisions about fee arrangements for TAFE students until IPART had released its final report in September.
Last October, Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli told State Parliament that concessions and fee exemptions for disabled and Aboriginal students as well as welfare recipients would continue.
"Students with disabilities will receive the same support that they have always received through TAFE and also non-government providers," he said.