Dollars and (No) Sense: Morrison Government Announces Removal of HECS for Low-Performing Students

You thought the recent fee hikes were an attack on students? There’s a whole lot more coming.

Yesterday, Dan Tehan MP, the Minister for Education announced a new ‘Graduate Ready’ education legislation, which they described as, “Requiring that universities ensure that all students are academically suitable for their course of enrolment, and that students are engaged with the course and maintaining a reasonable completion rate.”

Essentially, if you fail 50% of 8 or more subjects during your degree, you will lose your HECS funding access and will have to pay for your courses upfront rather than differing the cost. You can only keep your place if you have a justifiable reason for failing the classes, although Tehan did not clarify what the criteria of this reasoning would be in the press release.

This news has caused significant discourse in student communities as well as with the NUS.

In their statement, NUS “rejects the assertion from Minister Tehan that this package is “taking action to protect students and tax payers”. They went on to say that limited access to study, financial instability, mental health, disability and other complicating factors limit student success. NUS also clarified that incentivising success is a non-reliable way to ensure completion of degrees, as it will harm the wellbeing and success of students by using fear of punishment as a motivator.

With students contributions sent to rise considerably, this package announced by the Morrison Government appears to a safeguard for the government on debts that they themselves impose on students. This will also significantly effect low performing students, who may become priced out of a degree if they are unable to pay fees upfront.

The Australian advocacy group, End Rape on Campus Australia, commented on the announcement, saying that students who have been victims of sexual violence are more likely to fail at least half of the courses they take following their assault.

The NUS then went on to describe the scheme as “pay to play” university legislation.

Neither the Fee Hikes or HELP/HECS debts legislation has passed in parliament, these announcements are only for what the Morrison Government is proposing. More to come.

Em Readman
Em Readman

Em Readman is a writer from Meanjin who lives in Boorloo. She has been published in Aniko Press, the Suburban Review, Bowen St Press, Baby Teeth Arts, and others. They were an editor of Glass Magazine in 2020 and 2021, and won the 2022 Blue Knot Foundation Award with the Hunter Writer's Centre.

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