It has been more than 40 years since the Whitlam federal government made college education free. This was something many were pushing for at the time. My arguments included the point that without educated professionals this country could not function. Since others felt this way too, we felt that by lifting the tax burden we should actually be paying people to pursue higher education.
Every department of government and corporate life requires individuals who hold bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in fields relevant to their positions. The need to maintain a flow of graduates must be measured against student sacrifices. They often abandon lifestyles and other things to take up courses.
Our hospitals need doctors, nurses and scientists. Our cities function with the help of graduates educated in law, economics and a long list of other subjects. In a growing community that is expanding rapidly like Australia there is no end to the number of graduates we need.
The next government, which arrived a few months later, quickly replaced the tuition fees and they have been going downhill ever since. The country is now in the situation of having to import skilled people from overseas to carry out the jobs that Australians have been prevented from qualifying for due to cost.
The fees are now extremely high and are increasing every year. Overall, the cost of pursuing a medical degree could soon top $100,000. Books alone are often too expensive for students to own, and they borrow or rent them. Add to that the other equipment and costs and it’s pretty substantial.
While the government offers student loans, it has now placed a time limit on them, meaning repayments can exceed your income when you first start out. The question is what do politicians expect. Most of those today received a free or very low paid education in the past, but now they are making that not only impossible for many Australians but putting us behind the rest of the world in the education stakes.
University students are fiercely protesting the demonstrations that won’t stop until something better comes along. They demand better financial aid and more government support for their sacrifice. The country will be better served if they get it.