Budget 2014: University students to be 'financially crippled'

Today is a sad day for all Australians, particularly young Australians. 

Today marks the end of universal healthcare. A policy for which Australia was revered across the world.  

Today also marks the impending decline of Australian tertiary education, with fee deregulation beginning in 2016.  

Australia currently has one of the most accessible tertiary education systems in the world, giving students from Sydney to Cairns equal opportunities to share in the benefits that a high quality education brings.  

This budget is the first step in dismantling that system. 

On the 26th of August 2012, the then Shadow Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne issued a media release stating ‘The Coalition has no plans to increase university fees’. This policy stance was taken to the election and changes to this stance were not flagged until the final weeks leading up to the budget. 

Putting it frankly, Christopher Pyne and the Abbott Government broke their promise to the youth of Australia. 

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File picture.

Students now face increased fees, increased interest payments on student HELP loans and will have to start repaying their debt earlier. 

Student fees in Australia are already the 6th highest of the OECD nations and HECs debts take close to a decade in repay. It is ludicrous that Christopher Pyne and the Abbott government want to further burden our youth with debt and demand that we begin repayments earlier in our careers. 

Two in every three Australian university students live below the poverty line and even the students who have access to government assistance through Centrelink struggle to get by.  

Cost of living pressures are the biggest challenge facing students, particularly students from small and regional campuses. 

Here in Wollongong it is incredibly difficult for students to find appropriate employment. 

That is to say, employment which fits in with their study schedule and affords them enough opportunities to work. 

With youth unemployment at just under 13 per cent and some regional areas experiencing youth unemployment rates of up to 20 per cent, the inability to find appropriate employment is a serious financial strain on students. 

 The changes to tertiary education outlined in the budget will only compound the cost of living pressures students already face.

We should be investing in the future by supporting students, not financially crippling them. 

The Abbott Government has also targeted young people and apprentices, cutting the ‘Tools for Your Trade’ program worth nearly $1 billion as well as cutting a further $1 billion work and skills and training initiatives. 

This not only affects young people seeking to gain meaningful skills and employment but also the businesses that employ them and by extension the Australian economy. 

On a closing note, I find it somewhat hypocritical that many of the Coalition MPs who will vote in favour of this horrendous budget attended university for free, and all enjoyed access to free healthcare as well as a lower cost of living. 

As a student in Abbott’s Australia I will not have access to such 'luxuries'. 

Jack Boyd, National Small and Regional Officer, National Union of Students Inc 

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