Painful cut for studies
VANESSA MARSH THOUSANDS of Queensland students could be forced to drop out of their studies after the Federal Government quietly pulled crucial financial aid for vocational studies.
Students in hundreds of courses including dance, leadership, justice and journalism have been axed from the Turnbull government’s list of eligible income support recipients, causing chaos in the education sector as students are forced to reject placement offers and schools struggle with the downturn in demand.
It’s a second heavy blow to the industry after students in almost 500 vocational education and training (VET) courses were blocked from receiving student loans from 2016 onwards.
Those same courses are now ineligible for income support such as Youth Allowance and Austudy, a move Jschool journalism college director John Henningham slammed as “outrageous”.
“It’s very discriminatory and punitive and it’s upsetting to our students,” Mr Henningham said. “They are treated differently from students studying the same sort of thing at university and it does really knock about places like us.
“We’re in the process of leaving the government’s regulatory system because we see no benefit if students can’t get support and loans.”
Mr Henningham said the government’s claim the changes were made to stop people rorting the system and to focus on education options with optimal employment rates was untrue.
“They’re so inept that they allowed the rorting to occur … and then they punish the good providers and the students who wanted to study,” he said.
“To discriminate against the vocational sector as opposed to the university sector is an example of the craziness of their system.”
Australian Dance Performance Institute head of musical theatre Jacqui Devereux said 10 students at the school had already been forced to quit.
“We’ve also had a lot of teary phone calls from prospective students who say they just can’t afford it anymore,” Ms Devereux said. “The business is suffering and our students are suffering.”
Ms Devereux said many of the arts courses that had been defunded were very demanding, leaving little time for parttime jobs.
Gene Moyle, president of Australia’s peak dance advocacy body Ausdance National, said the organisation’s submissions to have the changes overturned had fallen on deaf ears.
“I definitely think this latest (student loan cut) came as a surprise to a lot of people,” she said.
The Department of Social Services refused to any answer questions on the issue.