HELP loans to be yanked from failing students
The federal government is proposing that university students who fail half their units will have their government-funded HELP loan withdrawn.
The proposal was announced on Thursday by education minister Dan Tehan, among a range of other changes to the Job-ready Graduates package release earlier this year.
"We don't want students taking on a study load that they can't complete, leaving them without a qualification and a large debt," says education minister Dan Tehan.
The HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP will be withdrawn once 50% of eight or more units are failed. The student will also lose their Commonwealth Supported Place, so they'll have to cough up the full fee amount in advance if they want to continue.
"We have found cases where students with the highest levels of debt have been continuously enrolled at multiple providers at the same time, resulting in debts ranging from $220,000 up to $660,000 combined with very low pass rates - on average these students have passed just one in every five subjects they have attempted," says Tehan.
He points to an example where a student racked up a $663,000 debt after starting, but failing to finish, 44 courses from 26 providers.
Students swiftly hit back at the proposal.
"[The] announcement contributes to the rank ableism and classism we can expect from this government," says a statement from the University of Melbourne Student Union.
"Students are not failing subjects by choice - they are failing subjects because of the youth mental health crisis in this country, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic."
The legislation is the latest in a series of proposed reforms rolled out by the government that aim to shore up the financial sustainability of higher education and encourage students to undertake studies that are more likely to lead to jobs.
In June, the government proposed changes that would see the cost of arts and law degrees increase 113% and 28% respectively, while the cost of maths and agriculture degrees would drop by up to 62%.