Should students pay more for education?

Written by Kendall Jones

University students enjoy many benefits paid for by taxpayers                                Image: CC Rennett Stowe/Flickr

University students should be paying far more for their degrees than they currently are, says new research from policy think tank the Grattan Institute.

The recently released Graduate Winners report says that by the middle of this decade tertiary education subsidies will have cost taxpayers $7 billion, but it was unclear students should have their education paid for by the public. The report can be view here.

Grattan Higher Education Program Director Andrew Norton said that tertiary students enjoy many benefits paid for by taxpayer dollars.

“Graduates do well out of higher education. They have attractive jobs, above-average pay and status…most students would take their course regardless of the size of the subsidy.”

Mr. Norton said taxpayers should only subsidize courses that create public benefits that would not be created otherwise.

The Grattan report suggests reducing government funding for courses that are currently most heavily subsidized, such as mathematics and science. The report proposes to increase the cost of science and maths courses by $2000-$5000 per year.

Nick Bartlett, president of the Mathematics Student Society at the University of Queensland, felt that higher education was becoming more and more important in a modern Australia.

“Naturally, I am repulsed by the idea of making education harder to acquire,” said Mr Bartlett.

Science honours student James Allan said that increasing the cost of degrees would probably go unnoticed my most students.

“We can already put off paying our debt by getting a HECS loan, which makes it easy to ignore the cost of our courses, we don’t have to think about it until we are finished uni and in the workforce. I don’t think an increased cost would’ve discouraged me from studying science.”

The Grattan Report says that a carefully managed reduction in taxpayer subsides for higher education could yield savings of $3 billion by 2017.

Mr Norton said it was up to supporters of tuition subsidies to explain to explain why taxpayer money would not be better spent in other areas.

In the The Grattan Institute podcast below, Andrew Norton and colleagues discuss their research findings.

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