TAFE in fight for sur­vival over fees as stu­dent num­bers plum­met

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

A LEAKED re­port writ­ten by TAFE NSW man­age­ment has blamed an alarm­ing drop in its en­rol­ments this year on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s re­vamp of the stu­dent loans sys­tem.

The Sun­day Tele­graph has ob­tained con­fi­den­tial data show­ing a 51 per cent drop in en­rol­ments dur­ing the first six months of the year across all TAFE NSW diplo­mas. The re­duc­tions are in ar­eas such as Early Child­hood Ed­u­ca­tion — down 58 per cent — and Build­ing, Con­struc­tion Man­age­ment — down 67 per cent.

“These cour­ses are crit­i­cal for the NSW econ­omy and TAFE NSW plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in meet­ing the needs of in­dus­try in these ar­eas,” the doc­u­ments state.

TAFE NSW man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Jon Black blamed the drop on the new VET Stu­dent Loans scheme, in­tro­duced in Jan­uary by the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment.

The scheme re­quires stu­dents to com­plete a 10-step process “that can take months” for ap­proval, Mr Black said. Loans for many cour­ses are also capped, mean­ing stu­dents need to come up with gap pay­ments they of­ten can­not af­ford.

A Diploma of Project Man­age­ment has a $2850 gap fee, the doc­u­ments state. A Diploma in Build­ing and Con­struc­tion has a $7970 gap fee.

Mr Black said the caps, plus the cum­ber­some ap­proval process, had made loan ap­proval a dis­in­cen­tive for prospec­tive stu­dents.

“(It’s) harder to get a loan for a vo­ca­tional course than a peace agree­ment from the UN,” he said.

The re­duc­tion in en­rol­ments is ex­pected to worsen next year be­cause the gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to of­fer funded diplo­mas and ad­vanced diplo­mas to uni­ver­si­ties, a move that could di­vert even more stu­dents away.

Fed­eral Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Si­mon Birm­ing­ham said the old sys­tem had pro­vided TAFEs with “huge en­rol­ment and rev­enue growth” but poor stu­dent com­ple­tion rates.

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