The Government has proposed changes to Commonwealth student loans (HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP) which will make education more unattainable for many Australians.
When you take out a HELP student loan, you only need to pay back the cost of your education once you are earning a decent income. The proposed changes will lower the income repayment threshold, so graduates will need to start paying when they are barely earning minimum wage.
Furthermore, these sneaky changes will be applied retrospectively to all current holders of HELP debts. This is unfair, because former students had entered into their degrees (and HELP loans) believing that they were committed to paying only once they could afford to. However, if these new rules are introduced, those students and graduates will be burdened with an onerous contract to which they never agreed.
The proposed changes also implement a cap on borrowing for Commonwealth supported places. Typically, this will affect students who are studying a Commonwealth supported undergraduate degree followed by a full-fee paying professional postgraduate degree. For example, a student doing a Bachelor of Arts followed by a Juris Doctor at the University of Melbourne would have to come up with $40,000 upfront- more if they ever changed course or failed a unit.
These changes go against the spirit of the HECS-HELP system, which is supposed to facilitate universal access to education for all who are capable and motivated. If the proposed changes are legislated, low-income Australians will experience shrinking opportunities to go to university.
The Government has introduced this amendment just months after announcing the pre-Christmas university funding freeze, which reduced the amount of available university places. The funding freeze represents over two billion dollars of savings to the Government; but now they are trying to bleed students and lower-income graduates to create the appearance of short-term savings.
Any day now the amendment be voted upon by the Australian Senate. We know that emailing crossbench senators really makes a difference. We have prepared some materials to help you to EASILY communicate your views with key crossbench senators, so that they are aware of the impact this amendment has on opportunities of Australians.
Basically, we have created a form letter to key crossbench senators. Click here to go to our letter-generating website. All you will need to do is to fill in your name, email address and postcode, and our campaign site automatically will generate emails to crossbench senators on your behalf. The site will send letters to the following senators:
Or, if you prefer, you can tailor the template letter to express it in your own words.
Only have time for a soundbite? Tweet at the senators. Our suggested tweet is: “@Stirling_G @Senator_Patrick @storertim @fraser_anning @Senator_Steve : please oppose changes to student loans that target poor and young Australians! #BuryTheBill”
For those with a little more time on their hands, please consider calling the senators to register your views on the student loan changes. You may wish to refer to the HECS HELP Letter Template for talking points.