Dramatic lift in full-fee uni students
By David Rood
Higher education reporter
February 24, 2005
Article from the Melbourne Age, Australia
The number of Victorians paying for a university degree has soared, with more than half the students starting law at Melbourne University this year enrolling to pay full fees.
A big change from the eighties when I was a student and the concept of paying full fees for education was a relic of a bygone era, something that happens in far away places, like the USA.
How will middle class students like myself afford an education in the future? In the past university places were heavily subsidised. But now federal grants to universities have been cut back.
What effect will this have on the demographics of students? Will there be less students from low income/ middle class backgrounds?
Fee-paying students will also fill 48 per cent of first-year places in optometry and 37 per cent in dentistry when classes begin at Melbourne on Monday.
The university has experienced an overall 38 per cent jump in domestic fee-paying commencing students, who will make up 8 per cent of total first-year undergraduate enrolments. Monash University has experienced a 12 per cent increase over last year.
The universities have blamed decreasing Federal Government funding for their increasing reliance on revenue from fee-paying students.
Under the Howard Government’s higher education changes, the maximum quota of fee-paying students has risen from 25 to 35 per cent of total enrolments in any course. Universities can enrol higher percentages of fee-paying students in individual years, provided the 35 per cent is not exceeded across an entire course.
Students can obtain a full-fee place with marks below the entry score for a Commonwealth or HECS place. The entry score for a HECS law place at Melbourne was 99.4, while the fee-paying score was 96.
Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said the student figures made a mockery of the Government’s claims that no more than 35 per cent of students would pay full fees.
“People who can pay $96,000 to study law at Melbourne University, now have more than twice the chance of getting in as those who don’t have the money to pay full fees,” she said.
HECS students will pay $32,000 for a four-year law degree.
Ms Macklin said access to a university places should be based on academic merit, not bank balances. She warned that the Government could remove the limit on full-fee places when it assumed control of the Senate in July, leaving some courses with 100 per cent fee-paying students.
The Government’s education changes also allowed universities a 10 per cent quota of fee-paying domestic medical students from this year. Monash University has filled its 10 per cent quota, with Melbourne to reach the quota following its mid-year intake of students.
A fee-based medical degree costs $160,000 at Monash and $200,000 at Melbourne.
Law remains the most popular fee-paying degree, with 35 per cent of Monash commencing students paying full fees. Full-fee students also comprise 25 per cent of first-year enrolments in pharmacy at Monash.
The figures are based on preliminary or “year to date” data.
The senior vice-principal at Melbourne University, Ian Marshman, said students were making informed decisions about their courses and utilising the new deferred loan scheme for fee places.
Mr Marshman attributed the increase in fee-paying students to three factors: the university introducing minimum entry scores for fee places, students in combined degrees splitting their enrolment between HECS and fee places and guaranteed transfer from fee places to Commonwealth-funded places for students with marks averaging at least 75 per cent. “Some of our very best students are in fee-based places, opening up government-supported places for other students,” he said.
Mr Marshman said Melbourne was ahead of its target of $20 million from domestic full-fee students.
A spokesman for federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson said fee-paying students represented about 2 per cent of the total student population. “These places are only taken up after all HECS places are filled by students,” he said. “Every single one of those full fee payers is paying their own way, often freeing up a HECS place that they otherwise would have been eligible for in another course.”
The spokesman ruled out any increase to the 35 per cent quota of fee-paying students.
At Deakin University, full fees will be paid this year by 9 per cent of law students, 6.5 per cent of commerce students and almost 3 per cent of those in primary teaching. An RMIT University spokeswoman said it was too early to provide figures on the number of full-fee-paying students for 2005. But only a small increase was expected. Swinburne University is offering full-fee places for the first time, while La Trobe does not take domestic fee-paying students.