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As we are all too aware by now, the budget delivered by Treasurer Joe Hockey last week introduced changes to university education that will severely impact on recent, current and future university students. The measures include: cutting public funding to university courses by 20 percent, deregulating university fees, introducing a six percent interest fee on all HECS loans and the lowering of the HECS repayment threshold to $50,638. However, there are a few positive changes, which include the expansion of commonwealth-supported places to non-university providers such as Technical and Further Education institutes or TAFEs and colleges and an increase in the commonwealth scholarships funding.
These changes, specifically the deregulation of university fees, has sent shivers down the nation’s spine sparking nationwide protests at universities. The potential increase in fees has prompted many to question whether a tertiary education will become affordable once the changes come into effect on 1 July 2016. The question of affordability is rightly justified, but not in the way many perceive. Accessibility to university will be maintained via the HECS system, ensuring that the barrier to entry will remain at a minimum, but if course fees rise significantly, will young Australian’s be able to pay back a larger debt with interest, while juggling an increase cost in living, saving for a home and preparing for a family?