It came as no surprise when home education was not mentioned in the budget, however there were a couple of education items that may have implications for us:
- Federal education funding has been tied to ‘quality conditions’. The Age reports: ‘In exchange for additional funding for schools, the government plans to impose new quality conditions on state and territory governments, emphasising a “back to basics” focus on literacy and numeracy.’ Although we don’t receive any funding this policy could have a flow on effect to home education in things like increased regulation and/or standardised testing.
- Higher education funding changes are planned but the bulk of them deferred to 2018 with a consultation process between now and then commencing with the release of an ‘options paper’ with the budget. The Australian Financial Review reported.
In a politically bold move on the eve of the election campaign, the paper signals higher fees for bachelor degrees. Most would be limited by a cap, but universities could charge deregulated prices on a limited number of prestige courses.
Faced with the certainty of a scare campaign over university fee rises, Senator Birmingham postposed fully fledged reforms until the 2018 academic year, instead presenting higher education policy as a series of options for public discussion.
However, he has left on the table many of unpopular features of the changes announced two budgets ago by his predecessor Christopher Pyne, including a 20 percent cut in government funding for bachelor degrees, and a lower income threshold for repaying debt owed under the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), commonly known as HECS.
One Pyne policy that remains alive in the new options paper is shifting the cost of university courses to students so that they will pay, on average, half the cost of their bachelor degree, up from about 40 per cent at present.
Other possibilities outlined in the options paper include:
- Recovering money from the estates of people who die with a HELP debt
- The repayment threshold to be applied to households rather than individuals.
- Introducing a loan fee on HELP loans.
The options paper is open for public input until July 2016.
- Funding cut for a The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP) which assists people from lower socio-economic backgrounds with university costs. The Guardian reports this program has helped increase university participation by lower socio-economic students by one third but the budget cuts its funding by $152.2 million. The Guardian reported Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson as saying, “Cutting such a program means we could be denying talented students a chance at higher education just because of their background. That is not only unfair but it robs Australia of future highly skilled graduates and innovators.”