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Labor’s Startup Year loans scheme puts students last

The Albanese Government has been unable to explain why it is delivering a student loans scheme that will charge $11,800 for university accelerator courses which student entrepreneurs can currently do for free. 

“Students should not risk taking on such a large amount of additional debt when they can choose from 120 accelerator courses at no cost.  This reckless loans scheme is not only a complete nonsense, but shows that the Albanese Government is tone deaf to the cost-of-living crisis so many students are facing.” Senator Henderson said. 

“Why would any young entrepreneur in their right mind sign up to Labor’s student debt trap?,” Senator Henderson said. 

Australian universities currently offer some 120 accelerator courses – ranging from the Melbourne University Accelerator to the Darwin Innovation Hub at Charles Darwin University to the UTS Startup Hub to Manufutures at Deakin University Geelong to Curtin Kickstart at Curtin University. 

During debate on the new loans scheme, the government stated that Startup Year provided incentives for students to complete an accelerator or incubator course without providing any evidence.  Even the government’s own student survey found that a majority of students would not take out a student loan to do such a course for any more than $6,000. 

“Just weeks after more than 3 million Australians were hit with a 7.1 per cent increase in their HECS debt, the government decides to deliver this half-baked policy which puts students last.” 

After seeking to oppose the Startup Year program in the Senate, the Coalition secured several amendments to protect students’ intellectual property and ensure that 25 per cent of Startup Year places go to students attending a regional university.  

“Regrettably, Labor and the Greens blocked a Coalition amendment to give students the right to a refund if a Startup Year course does not measure up.  Students are entitled to this basic protection but the Albanese Government has shown it could not care less,” Senator Henderson said. 

The Government’s handling of this loans scheme has been shambolic. While it is scheduled to commence from 1 July 2023, there are no courses available and not one student has expressed any interest in signing up.  The guidelines which set out how the loans scheme will operate were only tabled in the Senate yesterday. 

“The Coalition has a strong track record of backing young entrepreneurs in contrast to Labor’s Startup Year which is very bad policy. Students should not be conned into signing up for a Startup Year course at enormous cost when so many accelerator courses are available free of charge,” Senator Henderson concluded. 

See Senator Henderson’s second reading speech on the Education Legislation Amendment (Startup Year and other Measures) Bill 2023 here

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