May 21, 2014
More than 1000 university staff and students are expected to protest planned federal government changes to higher education at a rally in Perth this afternoon.
Protesters are unhappy about the prospect of a deregulated education system, more in line with the current American college model, which will allow universities to set their own course fees.
Fees for courses such as medicine, law and accounting are expected to rise when the changes come into effect in 2016.
According to the National Tertiary Education Union, students who take these courses may have to pay up to $100,000 in fees.
Students will also have to pay back the interest on their loans at market interest rates of around six per cent, rather than the two per cent interest offered via HECS.
The University of WA student guild education president Lizzy O’Shea urged members of the general public to support the campaign against the changes.
“Young people have an obligation to protect the next group of university students, who will be saddled with more debt and less opportunity,” she said.
“One third of students in Australia live below the poverty line, and the concern for the student guild is that now many will be working extra hours to pay off their fee’s upfront, which may lead to mental health issues.”
Suicide prevention agency beyondblue has also expressed concern about the impact of the higher education changes.
“Young people are already the most at risk demographic for stress related mental health issues and suicide,” a beyondblue spokesperson said.
“Further burdening them with an increase in student debt may lead to even more strain on an already stretched mental health service.”