De Grassi University

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Thank goodness I got that BA in Media Studies!

Student loans are forecast to ‘blow out‘ by sixteen billion-ga-megabillion before the toast pops up. Or, at least that’s according to pre-election projections from Labor.

It’s all the Lib’s fault of course. Allowing universities to set their own fees was always going to make degrees more costly. Duh. Or is it?

Well yes, education is becoming more expensive, but Australians are also buying more of it. They started doing that under Labor. And they’re not just buying uni degrees with their loans.

Student loans also cover Vocational Training. Yes, students can now obtain a Cert 4 in Depilating Polar Fleece at any number of the remaining local TAFE’s (Lord Howe TAFE  – windward side). *

And if there’s no TAFE in your area? No worries! Simply sign up with any number of private education providers ready and waiting for your business.

Get a student loan and Add to Cart! Your only out-of-pocket expense is the small fee you pay to a local Bangladeshi abattoir worker who’ll complete your two online assessments for you. So convenient!

The deregulation of Vocational Education has led to a proliferation of shonky fee-for-service education providers. Naturally, this race to the bottom has rendered these ‘qualifications’ value-less. The cost stays the same. Student loans paid for these worthless courses. And still do.

And then there was Labor’s uncapping of university places. Labor recognised one thing – teenagers’ academic performance has far more to do with post-code than brains. Students’ average performance in the poorest public schools lags 467 years behind students in the wealthiest. Or something like that anyway. The point is, excluding kids on the basis of a poor ATAR (uni entry score) simply reinforces the socio-economic disadvantages of poverty. Or at least Labor thought so, so they uncapped uni places and lowered the ATAR requirements.

The result? Now completely innumerate, barely literate students from even the poorest schools can attend university! Isn’t that great? They’re saddled with a student loan and a sense of dread that could suffocate a horse. These students are bright, hardworking and woefully unprepared for university. This is predatory lending in social justice’s pyjamas.

But we can’t fail these students! That would reflect badly on the public education system that hobbled them in the first place.

And besides, they need that degree so they can fill out the farcical linear regression that states that for each year of education there is a corresponding increase in earnings. (Actually, it doesn’t. That’s an average rating. Barely not-failing a General Arts degree in Media Studies and Basket-Weaving does not contribute to a steady growth in future earnings. Tearing through an Engineering degree does.) However, this ‘investment in personal development’ underpins the ‘borrow against future earnings’ model that enabled the personalisation of education debt in the first place.

So they must pass! And besides, these students represent bums-on-seats. Universities need bums-on-seats! More bums! More seats! And so the bar drops. Undergraduate degrees are awarded to ALL basket-weavers no matter how well they did in BSKTWV305 Not-Poking-Eyes-Out-With-Sharp-End-of-Cane (because that shit is totes springy). 

But there’s a problem. If an undergraduate degree now measures little more than your ability to identify Major Trends in Celebrity Fashion how can we tell which students do have a modicum of academic ability? In other words, if an undergraduate degree is now so facile, how can a student demonstrate a reasonable level of attainment?

Enter; post-grad! That’s right, for the very reasonable price of a kidney, you can demonstrate your ability and achievement with a graduate degree! Luckily, your local university has a range of courses to fit the bill. More bums. More seats. Can’t pay? There’s a loan for that!

By the way, don’t think for a moment that the Basket Weavers learned nothing at uni. No, they graduate their degrees with a higher level of education than they started with, that is to say, about the level of a Year 12 student at a middle-class public school. For poor kids, uni gives them the education they should have had, but didn’t. The difference is, of course, that they paid for it themselves. And they’ll still be paying for it when they’re 52 and working as a scaffolder on the Sunshine Coast. Their endless student loan repayments will bump up their effective tax into the highest bracket.

So, when angsting about that student debt ‘blow out’ (which is actually politically motivated spin, b.t.w) maybe consider the glaringly obvious reasons;

– the stratospheric rise in TAFE fees

– the stratospheric rise in shonky private providers offering courses for $10 less than TAFE fees (Add to Cart!!)

– the stratospheric rise in poor secondary education for poor kids, whereby students from poor areas learn to read for the first time as part of their undergraduate degrees

– Bums on seats. More bums! More seats!

– the subsequent devaluation of undergraduate degrees, forcing more students to have their abilities recognised through post-graduate degrees



*To be clear, the carpentry course undertaken by my young neighbour in 2014 for $700 now costs 8 grand. RIP TAFE.


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