ON CAMPUS: Senator Deborah O’Neill accuses the federal government of now lying about its lies. Picture: Michael FrogleyTHE federal government’s higher education reforms will rip $127 million out of Charles Sturt University (CSU), the opposition claims.
The secretary of Labor’s education caucus committee, Senator Deborah O’Neill, made the claim while visiting CSU’s Wagga campus to talk to students about the proposed restructure.
“(Federal education minister) Christopher Pyne’s plan is to take that money from the university and (in turn) have it take the money from the students,” Senator O’Neill said.
“It’s a cost-shifting exercise.”
Senator O’Neill said regional universities and their towns would be hit hard by the reforms and she is urging centres such as Wagga to support Labor’s campaign to oppose changes in the Senate.
She said if changes to the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) and higher education loan Program (HELP) that tied the student loan interest rate to the bond rate were passed then students could be “saddled with a debt sentence for decades”.
Country Labor’s candidate for Wagga at the 2015 state election, Daniel Hayes, accompanied Senator O’Neill to CSU.
“We have the state and federal Liberal governments saying you have to earn or learn, but what is happening is they are taking away the opportunity to do either,” Mr Hayes said.
“Unemployment is up and there are cuts to TAFE, and now the unis are in for further cuts.”
Rivcoll student president Brandon Harry said undergraduates were worried about a higher interest rate on loans taken out to obtain degrees and higher course fees.
“We are concerned there will be a money divide, or a class divide, that will stop people going to university regardless of their economic background,” Mr Harry said.
The Member for Riverina Michael McCormack defended the restructure, saying HECS and HELP loans were the best loans anyone would ever get.
“They are getting a loan which they don’t have to pay back until they earn $50,000 and it will give them a much-better paying job than if they don’t go to university,” Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack said the restructure would open up opportunities for CSU.
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