Regional students and their communities will be among the big winners from the Abbott Government’s higher education reforms introduced in this year’s Budget.
The Budget is part of the Government’s Economic Action Strategy to build a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.
The reforms include:
- expanding the demand driven Commonwealth funding system for students studying for higher education diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degrees, costing $371.5 million over three years;
- extending Commonwealth funding to all Australian higher education students in registered non-university higher education institutions studying bachelor courses, costing $448.9 million over three years;
- creating more opportunities for students with low socio-economic backgrounds and from regional areas through a Commonwealth scholarships initiative;
- maintaining the Higher Education Loans Program (HELP) where the taxpayer funds all students' fees up front; and
- removing all HELP loan fees which are currently imposed on some students undertaking higher education and vocational education and training.
For too long regional Australians have had limited choice in high-quality education.
The Abbott Government will, for the first time in Australian history, provide support to all students, in all higher education institutions, be they universities, colleges or those TAFEs registered as higher education providers, whether in the cities or the bush.
This will massively enhance the ability of regional and outer metro higher education providers to expand the range of courses they offer and to improve course quality.
This may see many regional students paying less than they do now for their education as government supports more higher education options.
Many TAFEs and private colleges already work in partnerships with universities. Those universities have been seeking funding for pathway and other diploma courses that help less prepared students succeed at university.
The Government will now fund pathway and other diploma courses through universities and colleges that will enable many more people in regional Australia to get a qualification that can be used outright or towards a university degree.
Under the new higher education system we will also require that universities and other higher education providers direct $1 in every $5 of additional revenue raised to Commonwealth scholarships for disadvantaged students.
This will especially help students from regional Australia who often face additional challenges when pursuing study after school.
These new arrangements will mean our smartest students can receive a world-class education, no matter what their background and where they’re from.
The Government will maintain the HELP loan scheme so that no regional student need pay a cent up front, and only pay for their higher education when they have graduated and are getting a decent income as a result of their education.