Professional Students

It won’t surprise anyone to learn that Rob Corr is opposed to the new education system proposed in the budget.

Rob rang up talkback radio to have a chat with the PM:

Robert: Hi. Mr Howard, I just wanted to ask you a question about higher education. The way the system currently works is that high school students compete academically for entry to university, but that 25 per cent of places can be reserved for upfront fee payers who don’t need to achieve the same academic standards.

Prime Minister: Well when you say reserved…

Rob: Can I finish my question please?

PM: Yes, sure.

Rob: Your Government proposes to allow half of the university places to go to upfront fee paying students. Aren’t you reforming the system in favour of the dumb rich and putting up a barrier to poorer students?

Rob’s faithful added in the comments:

Years from now, when Australia is a second-rate country sliding backwards into comfortable impoverishment (watching other countries reaping untold rewards of economic prosperity, cultural vitality and technological innovation) we’ll look back at the damage we did to our universities during the Howard years and go

“Yep, that’s when the rot set in. That’s when we gave it away.”

When I think of a country that has experienced “economic prosperity, cultural vitality and technological innovation”, I can’t help but think of the big one between Canada and Mexico, where evil capitalists roam free and good degrees cost money.

I’m a HECS student as well. The 25% up-front discount isn’t worth it for most, even if you have the cash. It would only be worth it for a degree where you were guaranteed to be earning 36,000 plus first year out.

Only Medicine and Aviation really fit that criteria, and that’s a miniscule amount of students.

Full Fee paying students are rarely the “rich dumb kids” that Rob describes. Rich dumb kids take over the family business and/or get looked after through the usual nepotism. This, beside the point that High School tertiary entrance results are hardly a good indicator of ability to succeed at University (or in the workplace, for that matter).

The majority are foreign students who pay full fees because it’s still cheaper than getting an English language education in their home country. With few exceptions, they are excellent students, and many remain in Australia and become citizens after their education is complete. It’s like a reverse brain-drain.

The more of these type of customers we get into our universities, the better off the universities (and by extention, the HECS students that attend those universities) will be.

As far as jacking up prices of degrees goes, I don’t see a problem with that. Let the market decide the worth of the degree. Many of them are grossly overvalued. How much is a degree in “women’s studies” worth these days?

One effect that these changes will have is to significantly discourage the so-called “middle class welfare”. Being at Uni sure is a lot more fun than being on the dole, and you don’t have to look for a job to boot!

It doesn’t really matter what course you are studying. What matters is that you go 12 hours a week, hang out with your friends, and pay the HECS back when you grow up. I should know, I’ve done it. Hell, I’m still doing it.

I’ve posted before on the inflationary effect that this has on University degrees. Many jobs that used to be semi-skilled (such as administration, bookkeeping, human resources etc) now require a degree. Not because the jobs have become any more involved, of course. It’s just that every man and his dog has a degree now, so if you want a job, you better have one too.

A move towards a user-pays system for higher education is the first step to eradicating “Degree Inflation”, and that’s not going to disadvantage anyone, except professional students.

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