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Issue #1720      February 24, 2016

Stop TAFE cuts!

Join the campaign

TAFE was established as an affordable, quality higher education for everyone in Australia. As one experienced high school teacher told the Guardian, “I remember all my courses being free, the only thing I ever paid was the forms to print off!” This comment is astonishing considering that now in 2016 some courses are putting students in debt.

There are many cases of the VET FEE HELP being of no help at all, in fact having the opposite effect. There is the case of a mother of two wanting to find a job for his eldest son as he had been out of work for an extended period. She enrolled him at the cost of $1,200. But the cost didn’t stop there. The price tag eventually reached $12,000 and in the end she was forced to sell their house in order to pay back the fees. Her son never found a job that the telemarketer that spruiked the course was telling him he would get.

“People who have English as a second language or have dropped out of school early but are looking to TAFE to give them the necessary skills to enter the workforce are the ones that will suffer,” said the NSW opposition leader. Which is exactly the case as it is working class youth and their families who have historically used TAFE as are higher education to qualifications, such as in the trades, hence Tertiary and Further Education.

TAFE teachers have reported that this year there was a significant decline in enrolments and that many of their work colleagues had been dismissed because the Turnbull government wants to have TAFE to “compete” with private, for-profit colleges. So TAFE has had its funding cut in order for it to have “market neutrality”. On an economic common sense index alone the clear advantage is for education to be affordable as an investment in everyone’s future.

Teachers are being hit with increased face to face teaching with less time to prepare for classes.

And now there is a process of replacing qualified teachers with trainers, another cost cutting exercise that affects the quality of education.

What is happening:

  • TAFE funding nationally has declined by more than 20 percent since 2000.
  • Across the country. more than 40 percent of government VET funding has been opened up to private, for-profit colleges.
  • Governments have introduced a student loan scheme into TAFE to make students pay the full cost of vocational education.
  • Quality in the sector is threatened, with the national regulator finding that many private colleges do not provide the full amount of training, falsly advertise their courses and mislead students with promises of jobs.

“Smart and Skilled”

The NSW government introduced “Smart and Skilled” in 2015.

“Smart and Skilled” is the NSW version of market reforms of the TAFE system being implemented across Australia.

In Victoria, these same reforms were implemented in 2008. TAFE courses have been cut, fees have gone up dramatically, and more than 2,500 TAFE teachers have been made redundant. Half the state’s TAFE colleges are struggling financially.

The NSW government has already cut millions of dollars from TAFE’s budget, and made hundreds of teachers redundant. “Smart and Skilled” will mean more and more TAFE funding will go to private for-profit providers.

It will mean many high school students in NSW will have their pathways to further study and work threatened.

Higher Fees:

  • The NSW government will fund fewer courses.
  • Students will have to pay the full cost of many courses. In one state, this has resulted in Advanced Diplomas costing students $28,000.

Only one chance:

  • Many students will have only one chance to access a government funded course.
  • The number of courses that the government funds will be reduced.
  • There will be no government funding at all for many courses from Certificate IV and above.
  • There is nothing students can do if they waste their chance at a dodgy private college, make the wrong choice or change their mind about what they want to do.

Student debt:

  • A HECS-like student loan scheme has replaced government funding. This will lock this generation of young people into long term debt.
  • Students will be discouraged from enrolling in training.

As one campaign supporter put it, “Public education belongs to the community and should be for sale of profit. Save your local TAFE, it belongs to you.”

See: stoptafecuts.com.au (NSW)

Next article – Health a top priority for Gap campaign

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