Brand MP Madeleine King is warning education funding changes proposed by the federal government will have a disproportionate negative effect on Peel students from poor families.
The budget measures, which are due to be debated in federal parliament in the coming months, include a requirement for a student contribution for enabling programs, which provide a way for those without the marks to get into university by taking an additional bridging course.
But education minister Simon Birmingham refuted claims students would be disadvantaged, saying the shake-up would only mean students who enrol in the university’s 14-week OnTrack program would pay for this study, which is currently fee-free, through student loans like any other student.
About 450 students were enroled in the OnTrack program in 2017, which teaches research, writing and thinking skills, with more than 350 from Rockingham and the Peel region.
Ms King said the funding changes would “immediately halt this positive development”.
“To rip up the opportunities and dreams of these students is, in my opinion, a national disgrace and should be reconsidered by the government.”
But Mr Birmingham said taxpayer funding for universities had grown at twice the rate of the economy since 2009.
“Our reforms still see university teaching revenue grow by a further 23 per cent over the forward estimates, just growing at a more sustainable trajectory to ensure the ongoing viability of generous higher education funding and access,” he said.
“We’re expanding the demand-driven system and the taxpayer-funded student loan program to sub-bachelor courses where they translate into further qualifications and align with industry needs.
“There’s no upfront cost for enabling courses and those students will be treated exactly the same as their peers doing other courses at university where the student loan program applies.”