TAFE in fight for survival over fees as student numbers plummet
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.