A lot of Australians struggle to pay back their university debts, and a lot of students are struggling to get the same.
In a series of blog posts, former federal Liberal education minister Rand Paul has made the case that universities are too expensive, and it’s time they were privatised.
He’s right about the cost of higher education.
It’s more expensive than ever before.
But he’s wrong about the degree of student debt.
“It is not the case, for example, that universities have not been able to make a contribution to the tertiary education system, as some would like to have it, in the last 20 years or so,” he wrote.
“But as I have said, I am not suggesting that universities should be reduced in size.”
In his blog post, Mr Paul said universities were not a “free lunch”.
“In the end, students are paying a cost that universities cannot absorb, and that is the cost to society,” he said.
“So universities must be managed in a way that makes them less able to absorb that cost, and make the contribution to tertiary student funding, that is, the cost that the taxpayer is paying.”
He also said that while some students had been able a little while ago to access more resources at their universities, this was a short-term fix.
He said there were some good reforms that could be made to universities, including providing access to online courses and helping students pay off their university debt.
He also suggested that students should consider whether they could “pay their way through” their university, which he said was a “good idea”.
“It’s not necessarily about the money, but rather about how you’re going to manage your finances in the long term, whether you can afford to pay your way through the cost and what you’re actually going to need to do to fund your education,” he added.
But a new report from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has found that many universities have had a tough time coping with student debt, with a quarter of students still struggling to pay it back.
“While the number of students who are unable to repay their student debt has increased, the extent to which they have made payments is much lower than it was in previous years,” the IPA’s analysis said.
In fact, the total amount of debt owed by Australian students has increased by $9.5 billion over the last 10 years, with almost $2 billion owed to private and non-government institutions.
The IPA also found that nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of all students were paying at least 80 per cent of their total student debt over the past 10 years.
“The average student has debt of about $30,000, and students are increasingly finding it difficult to make payments,” it said.
It said students were also being “struggled by their financial circumstances” and “suffering from chronic low-interest loans”.
The IPA said that the average amount of student loans paid back each year was $1,900, but that some students were taking out “substantial” loans that were “so large and so burdensome they would not have been able or willing to pay off”.
The study also found students are spending more time at university than ever, with over 70 per cent more students choosing to study than ever.
“Some students are now spending more hours at university, and are not getting enough work done,” it found.
“For example, almost 40 per cent fewer students are working full-time at university in 2016 than in 2015.”
However, students in the private and public sectors are spending significantly more time in school than ever.
“Topics:education,education-industry,education,public-sector,debt-burden,educationpolicy,government-and-politics,government—organisations,education—general,australia,aussies,newcastle-2300,vic,canberra-2600,nsw,aotearoa-2480,queenslandFirst posted January 26, 2021 13:23:00Contact Tim O’BrienMore stories from New South Wales