New research released by researchers at the University of Melbourne shows the Morrison Government’s Job-Ready Graduate Scheme, which saw fees for some degrees rise by up to 117%, affected the enrollment decisions of only 1.5% of students.
The study analysed over 725,000 university applications to investigate whether students changed their field of study preferences and final course enrollments in response to the Government’s fee changes.
It used data from the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC), which manages degree applications in NSW and the ACT, spanning seven years before and two years after the scheme's introduction.
“The findings show the Job-Ready Graduates scheme had only a modest impact on students' course preferences. Our statistical analysis revealed just 1.52% of university applicants chose fields they would not have chosen under the old scheme,” said Mr Yong.
“The purpose of the scheme was to shift applications from humanities to STEM and teaching fields. For example, mathematics and statistics experienced a 59% fee reduction, but only one out of every 2,000 students changed their preference to mathematics,” said Mr Yong.
The research highlights specific examples of how students responded to the changes. Despite a substantial 117% fee increase in communications, journalism, and media studies, only one out of every 350 students opted not to pursue these fields in response to the hike.
“The limited impact can be attributed to the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), which allows students to defer upfront university fees, and the fact many students prioritise their passions over financial considerations when choosing courses,” said Dr Kabatek.
The researchers are concerned many students will be accumulating significantly higher HECS debts.
“The debt for a three-year journalism degree increased from approximately A$20,000 to A$43,500, while the debt for a mathematics degree decreased from around $28,600 to $11,850, resulting in a new difference in debts of $31,650. These changes may lead to delayed home purchases and family planning for graduates with larger debts,” said Dr Coelli.
The researchers hope policymakers will recognise that increasing HELP debts for some and reducing them for others may not necessarily prompt students to enter the sectors the government deem a priority.
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