As part of a broader plan to pass on its costs to independent tertiary education providers, the Australian Government has proposed legislation that will see the full costs of administering the FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP schemes covered from higher education providers. The practical outcome is that the increased in fees and charges will be passed-on to students. The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), working with advice tendered from providers, is seeking a review of the legislation.
Key Issues —
The contentious legislation is the Higher Education Support Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2019 (Cth) and the accompanying Higher Education Support (Charges) Bill 2019 that amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (Cth). The legislative amendment will implement an application fee on higher education providers that seek approval to their students to be eligible for FEE-HELP assistance. The bill will also provide for the collection and administration of the annual charge from higher education providers.
Although levied on higher education providers, the practical outcome is that the Australian Government’s new charges will be passed-on to students studying in the higher education sector. ITECA has advised the Minister for Education, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP, that as Australia’s independent higher independent providers are either not-for-profit organisations, faith-based organisations and private organisations that have neither the large budgets nor taxpayer support to cover the extra costs.
Using the advice from its members, the Australian Government’s approach to recovering the costs associated with administering the Higher Education Loan Program reveals an outdated and ineffective approach to the provision of services to students. ITECA has argued that it’s effectively a tax on students on the higher education system.
Higher Education Sector Issues Précis —
- The Australian Government is seeking to recover the cost of administering the HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP schemes from higher education providers;
- There has been no assessment as to the impact of this move on the higher education providers that has been released publicly;
- The legislation is before the Senate having been passed by the House of Representatives; and
- ITECA has advised the Minister for Education of the concerns held by the independent tertiary education sector and is actively lobbying for a review by a Senate committee.
The full impact of this new student tax measure on students at independent tertiary education providers has yet to be clearly identified. There is no assessment in the public domain that provides an indication as to the adverse cost impact on student and it is in this context ITECA believes it is appropriate that the measure is subjected to an appropriate measure of scrutiny by the Senate’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee. ITECA is currently liaising with the Opposition and key cross-bench senators with the hope of securing this review.
The advocacy undertaken by ITECA on this issue is accompanied by other engagement with the Australian Government as it works towards the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) operating on a full cost-recovery basis. ITECA has advised the Minister for Education that further engagement with the independent higher education sector is required on the TEQSA cost-recovery arrangements.
ITECA represents independent providers in the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors. There are around 130 independent providers in the higher education sector that collectively support more than 140,000 students.
ITECA’s ability to play a lead role in matters associated with this issue rests on the advice and guidance of individuals serving on the ITECA Higher Education Reference Committee.
For more information on this issue please send an email to email@example.com or telephone 1300 421 017. Stay up to date via Twitter @ITECAust or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/ITECAust.
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