Modelling: Deregulation to cost uni students as much as $50k

HIGH school graduates looking at university degrees in everything from teaching to science could face fee rises between $12,000 and $50,000 even if universities did not raise fees above recovering the costs of Abbott Government reforms.

After a slew of modelling from the government, unions, The Greens and other groups, the University of Canberra's National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has tried to pinpoint the effects of fee deregulation.

While a free market on university fees is hard to predict, given it will be up to universities to set fees, the modelling shows even a base case of "cost recovery" from the government's deregulation will have big impacts.

NATSEM's principal research fellow Ben Phillips wrote on The Conversation website increases were "likely to be significant" and fees from HELP loans will be bigger and take longer to pay off.

"Deregulation of fees will have different impacts on students depending on gender and the course of study," he wrote.

"For certain degrees, such as science, there is the potential for the time taken to repay a loan doubling and the total dollars repaid to almost triple."

The modelling shows the difference between current fees, and universities simply recovering the extra costs as government pulls funding, will be between $9554 for male business students to $51,492 for female science students.

Based on typical courses at the University of Canberra, it shows female nursing students would be up for a $13,130 fee rise and fees for male and female teaching students will rise about $17,000.

The fee rises on all of those "typical courses" would likely amount to former students spending an extra one to three years just to pay back their university debt.

But the modelling also acknowledged some institutions would look to make extra profits as part of fee rises, with data showing a 20% margin for universities could see fees rises

Mr Phillips wrote a 20% price increase would see female science graduates paying off debt over 16.4 years, up from the current repayment period of 8.4 years.

"These scenarios don't include single parents who would be in a significantly worse position," he wrote.

"With a higher interest rate and potentially several years out of the work force or working part-time (and thus not paying off the debt) it would be highly likely that such persons, particularly for high-fee and lower income occupations could be paying off their degrees for well in excess of 20 years."

While the full effects of deregulation cannot be known, Education Minister Christopher Pyne on Wednesday defended the government's decision to deregulate the fee market.

He told parliament the government was introducing many other programs, including new training and scholarships for some students, to ensure promising students could still afford to study.

Mr Pyne also recently told The Australian that the likely fee rises, based on government modelling, equated to an extra $5 a week, a fair price to pay given students would earn an extra $1 million over a lifetime.

But Labor's higher education spokesman Senator Kim Carr said the modelling "discredited" the government's plans, and it would "lead Australia down the track of United States-style debt".

The government's plans will take effect in July 2016 on new students, but existing students will continue under the existing fee arrangements.



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