University of New England Student Association says the federal government’s new policy to lower the threshold for uni loan repayments ‘attacks’ students.
President Koady Williams said the association believed the proposed Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Bill 2018 wasn’t an equitable solution.
“It could be seen as punishing people for seeking higher education,” Mr Williams said.
“Many graduates are being forced to move to the city which is more expensive plus the continuous rising of basic commodities and taxes.
“Even one per cent is still attacking our most vulnerable cohort of citizens.
“This threshold is barely above the poverty line.”
Under the new legislation, graduates would have to start repaying their Commonwealth-funded student loans (HECS HELP) when they earn $45,000 a year – down from the current threshold of $55,874.
Repayments would start at one per cent of their income and rise by a per cent as they gradually earn more.
The policy would also see student loans capped at $104,000 for their lifetime.
Mr Williams said the policy changes will have a negative impact on people seeking more lucrative careers.
“It’s an important issue for all students because it’s definitely going to have ramifications for all students – past, present and future,” Mr Williams said.
“The average undergraduate student may come out with a HECS HELP debt of $30,000 to $50,000 but for people who go on to seek post graduate education, particularly those in Commonwealth supported place, it is going to add up.
“It’s not just about the decrease in the threshold but the capping because it’s stopping people from seeking further education.”
Mr Williams is urging students to contact members of the Senate to argue that the change would compromise access to higher education across the nation.
He said UNESA was supporting the National Union of Students and Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations’ “bury the bill” campaign against the lower threshold.
“We are also encouraging students to sign the petition for the senate to drop the bill,” Mr Williams added.
“We need a government who supports education with their budget.”
The National Union of Students (NUS) and the Council of Postgraduate Students (CAPA) launched their campaign to fight proposed changes to student loan legislation earlier this year,” he said.
Federal Minister for Education Simon Birmingham was contacted for comment but his reply did not make it in time for press.