$500m education cuts to hit Illawarra hard

MPs Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird say the planned changes are not realistic.
MPs Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird say the planned changes are not realistic.

Federal budget cuts will strip more than $500 million from the Illawarra's education system, according to new Labor modelling.

The sum includes $95.8 million in cuts to the University of Wollongong over the next four years, as forecast by the National Tertiary Education Union.

Labor also calculates that 137 schools in the Throsby and Cunningham electorates will miss out on a combined $392 million over 10 years, under the watered-down National Education Reform Agreement.

A further $16 million would be lost as a result of scrapping the schoolkids bonus for 27,282 primary and high school students from the two electorates.

On Thursday, Illawarra Labor MPs Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones slammed the cuts, which will be the subject of an opposition-led community forum in Wollongong on Monday.

"If we're going to transform this region, then we know we need to be graduating kids from schools, students from universities, with a world-class education," said Mr Jones, the MP for Throsby.

"When you pull $500 million from the region, from education, you can't do that."

Monday's forum will discuss the implications of the cuts, including those to university funding.

Universities Australia-wide are expected to introduce significant student fee hikes - upwards of 30 per cent, according to the NTEU - to counter the missing millions.

Opponents of the reforms say heightened fees will deter some students from pursuing university-level education.

"It's not good enough for the government to be saying some kids deserve that education and some kids do not," Mr Jones said.

Ms Bird said she was receiving consistent feedback from families concerned about the future cost of university.

She said it would be school leavers from low-income backgrounds, indigenous people and women who would be most deterred from going to university under the government's incoming reforms, which also lift the cap on the amount universities can charge in student fees.

"Sadly, families are having conversations these days about 'can we afford to send our kids to university?'," she said.

"They say . . . if you're talking about $100,000 debt, when are you ever going to get a mortgage, when are you going to be able to start a family? This is just not realistic."

The three-hour forum, at City Diggers, starts at 9am and is open to the public. RSVP: 4228 5899.

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