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Labor sets debt trap for vulnerable university students

The Albanese Government’s reckless decision to abolish the 50 per cent pass rule delivers a debt trap that will hit the most vulnerable university students, according to Shadow Minister for Education, Sarah Henderson.

In the face of Labor’s cost of living crisis, the rule protected students, failing more than 50 per cent of their subjects after enrolling in eight or more units, from leaving university with large student debts and no qualification.

Students only faced losing their Commonwealth supported place if they did not meet an exemption on compassionate grounds.

In June, Labor’s skyrocketing inflation meant that more than three million Australians were hit with a 7.1 per cent increase in their HECS debt, an average rise of $1,700.

“Education minister, Jason Clare, has walked away from the tough job of holding universities to account.  He has also set a debt trap for vulnerable students which shows he is tone-deaf to the cost of living pressures so many Australians are facing,” Senator Henderson said.

Mr Clare has been caught out wrongly suggesting that more 13,000 students have been “hit” by the rule. In a senate inquiry into the Higher Education Support Amendment Bill 2023 (bill), Universities Australia confirmed that most of these students had not lost their place at university.

“The Albanese Government also botched its Support for Students Policy, delivering inadequate guidelines which fail to put students first, whether it be student attainment, refunds for deficient courses or student safety,” Senator Henderson said.

“The government is not doing enough to combat sexual violence and harassment on campus and in residential colleges. Labor needs to deliver on the Coalition’s proposal for an independent student ombudsman, with tough powers which hold universities to account,” Senator Henderson said.

“Consistent with the need to prioritise the most disadvantaged and marginalised Indigenous Australians, the former Coalition government uncapped places for Indigenous students from regional, rural and remote areas.”

“The needs of Indigenous students who face the biggest barriers to accessing a university education must continue to be prioritised,” Senator Henderson said.

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