Illawarra will be 'especially disadvantaged' by fee hike

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It's been a busy couple of months for the president of the University of Wollongong's student union.

Wollongong Undergraduate Students' Association (WUSA) president Mitchell Bresser said many more students had been contacting the union since the fee deregulation program was announced in the federal budget.

While the proposed changes would not affect students already in a Commonwealth-supported place, he said students still had concerns.

"Many students enrol in courses and then decide to change course for whatever reason - the course might not live up to their expectations or they might decide on a different path," Mr Bresser said.

"Also many students want, or need, to go on to get a postgraduate qualification to make themselves more competitive when going for a job or a promotion. In some fields, like medicinal science or chemistry, just about the only way to find employment in Australia is with a postgraduate degree.

"So these changes will impact on current students as they will lose the flexibility to change courses or complete further courses without having to pay the higher fees that will surely come under a deregulated system."

Mr Bresser, a second-year commerce student, said escalating fees would result in students "doing the course they can afford, not the course they want", leading to less satisfaction.

"When they get out of uni, they will be more conscious than ever of their starting salary, so will in turn choose the job which will allow them to pay off their debt quickest, not necessarily the one they most want to do," he said.

Mr Bresser said the concept of allowing individual universities to put a price on education was not consistent with the union's values.

"WUSA believes education should be free," he said. "We believe that any disincentive to higher education is a disincentive to a better, happier and more productive Australia."

Mr Bresser said students at regional and smaller universities would be hardest hit.

"These universities lack a lot of the services and options available to metropolitan students," he said. "Students in the Illawarra will be especially disadvantaged as the industries in this region are changing and education is becoming more important than ever."

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