Should university be free?

While getting an education is vital for jobseekers of today to land a job, many question whether students should be forced to pay to go to university.

A standard Bachelor degree can take three years to complete if studying full-time and can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $33,000. If a student wishes to continue with their studies, they can expect to pay an additional $20,000 to $37,000 for a Master’s degree.

Of course, international students who come to Australia to study pay higher fees outright and can be forced to return to their home country when they finish studying.

While a variety of student loans are available for local residents and citizens, The Australian recently reported that the university student HECS debut (Higher Education Contributions Scheme) could rise to $11 billion by 2026.

At present, the annual HELP loans sit at around $1.7 billion, with some 522,000 fulltime students relying on the government to help with their loans.

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As it stands, people only need to start paying back their debt when they earn over $54,869 a year. Given that most people find it difficult to get straight into work when they graduate, it can be several years before they even start paying the money back.

This wasn’t always the case in Australia. Back in the 1970s, the Whitlam Labor Government abolished university fees altogether, meaning that from January 1974, no one had to pay to attend university. Perhaps you or someone you knew studied and didn’t have to pay to attend classes.

While the degree itself was free, many people still opted not to go as they couldn’t afford accommodation if they lived far away from a campus, the price of text books and other material was too high or they simply couldn’t afford being off work for so long in order to complete a degree.

In the mid-1980s, both major political parties decided to start charging university again because admission rates became too high for it to be sustainable.

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While students still need to obtain a certain grade to get into particular courses, there are fears that some people will never be able to pay back the debt after they’ve finished studying.

As jobs become harder to get, more people are attending university and obtaining degrees, leading to even more financial assistance from the government and the tax-payer.

Do you think university should be free for students? Is it up to the government to help students with their loans, or is it something people should have figured out before they undertake further study?