TAFE qualifications to cost students more

Sue Simpson
Research Officer

Don't do it

Robert Long
TAFE Organiser

The Australian Education Union (NSW branch) is calling on the State Government not to proceed with its price schedule for vocational education and training qualifications.Students will pay more for their courses.

The price structure is a step towards the Government implementing its Smartand Skilled policy, which the union opposes.The policy will have a serious impact on TAFE as private providers will be allowed to compete for all vocational education and training funding.

The union continues to work with other trade unions to broaden the campaign to ensure that all students and workers get access high quality low cost TAFE skills and vocational education.

For school leavers, gaining a vocational qualification will become more expensive with no assurance that increased cost means increased quality in delivery.

The NSW Government wants 46,000 more students to undertake vocational education and training in 2015, but wants students to pay more to fund the additional places. To do more with less, students will be charged the full commercial rate for qualifications not on the NSW Skills List of employment priorities and the Government will only partially fund or “subsidise” those courses that are considered priorities for employment.

TAFE NSW will lose out as the State Government will partially fund employment priority courses whether delivered by TAFE or by approved private providers. Expanding public subsidies to TAFE’s competitors will see even more government funding taken away from TAFE. TAFE and adult and community education colleges will receive additional funding to ensure regional and remote areas can be serviced, but at this stage the level of funding is subject to “market testing”.

Students will pay between 25 and 40 per cent of the cost of a first qualification on the NSW Skills List, ranging from $820 for a Certificate II in Community Services as a first qualification up to $7550 for an Advanced Diploma of Electrical Engineering.

For second or subsequent qualifications on the Skills List, students will pay a 5 per cent premium with students paying between 30 per cent of the cost of a Certificate II — III to 45 per cent of the cost of a Diploma and Advanced Diploma. As a second qualification, the Certificate II in Community Services will cost $980 whilst the Advanced Diploma of Electrical Engineering will cost $8490. A Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care, a requirement to work in one of the lowest paid industries, will cost $1590 as a first qualification and $1910 as a second or subsequent qualification.

Students already with a Certificate IV or higher will have to pay the full cost of any course at Certificate III or below even if the qualification was obtained overseas. The full cost of the Certificate II in Community Services is $3310. Given the abominably low pay in the sector, these costs are a disincentive for training.

Prices for qualifications will be reviewed annually.

Only Aboriginal students will pay no fees for courses on the Skills List. Students with a disability, their dependent child or partner will not pay for the first qualification but will have to pay a concession fee for any second or further qualification in a calendar year. Students eligible for concessions fees will pay between $80 for a foundation skills course to $240 for a Certificate III–IV. This year they are only paying $53, so there will be a 453 per cent fee increase.

There will be no concessions for Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses. Students will pay full commercial rates with students able to become indebted through VET FEE-HELP loans.

In 2015 apprentices will be charged a one-off fee of $2000 for their qualification, which will take 2.5-3 years to obtain. (Currently apprentices pay no more than $1518 for a three year course/$506 per year.) The Government will then consider increasing the cost of apprenticeship training in line with other forms of training. The total course price for a Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology is $16,450 and $17,630 for a Certificate III in Automotive Refinishing Technology.

The increased cost of a vocational education qualification and fear of lifelong debt will keep some young people away from further education – the very people for whom there could be no dole payment.

The 2015 price schedule for qualifications schedule was released following the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s recommendations on the pricing of vocational education and training under the Government’s Smart and Skilled policy.

Loadings

TAFE and private providers will be able to access loadings or additional funding for enrolling Aboriginal students, students with a disability and the long term unemployed as well as a loading for distance and location. The loadings range from 10 to 15 per cent of the cost of the course. However, there can only be one needs loading per student. So an Aboriginal student who has a disability and has been unemployed for a long time would only attract one instead of three loadings. The value of the individual loadings is not sufficient to replicate the support TAFE has been able to provide for the most disadvantaged students.