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Aus: VET sector reacts to loan scheme change

Australian vocational providers have called for more refinement in proposed changes to the sector’s government-backed loans scheme, which were announced after recent incidents of fraudulent and inappropriate behaviour by providers came to light.

The proposed three-tiered fee caps do not properly reflect the state of the market. Nursing courses for example have been given a A$10,000 cap which stakeholders say is too low. Photo: Navitas.

“We're concerned it's an overcorrection"

Providers have said that changes to the current domestic-only loan scheme, VET FEE-HELP, including a three-tiered funding cap for courses and limits to the number of courses eligible for funding, unfairly target private providers and could lead to some courses being dropped.

“It’s not about whether providers are public or private, it’s about whether they’re good or bad”

“First and foremost, we support the need for a new scheme and the need to tidy up the problems that were existing in the old scheme,” said Rod Camm, CEO of private vocational peak body ACPET.

“We’re concerned it’s an overcorrection.”

Camm told The PIE News that he’s concerned the limit to the number of qualifications funded is an “aggressive step” and some of the courses that will no longer be funded provided “legitimate jobs in the economy”.

In 2015, the VET sector accounted for the second highest number of international students in Australia, with just under 170,000 or 26.3% of total enrolments.

Camm said he does not believe the proposed changes would have a direct impact on international student enrolments.

But Rod Jones, CEO of private provider Navitas, said defunding courses may discourage institutions from offering them, in turn limiting options to all students, including internationals.

He added his organisation is concerned that the changes and subsequent senate inquiry have focused too heavily on private providers and ignored public institutions, some of which have similarly been involved in inappropriate behaviour.

“To me, it’s not about whether they’re public or private, it’s about whether they’re good or bad. Clearly, everyone would support the bad providers being removed,” he said.

Jones called the proposed changes “a blunt instrument” that negatively impacts all providers.

Pointing to the three-tiered fee caps of A$5,000, $10,000 and $15,000, Jones said the changes do not properly reflect the state of the market.

“Courses like nursing, [the government is] saying they’ve got a $10,000 cap. It’s impossible for a good provider to deliver a nursing course at $10,000. You’d have to have significant additional funding from students and alike to be able to offer courses at that level.”

The proposed changes are currently undergoing a senate inquiry and have sought submissions from sector stakeholders. If passed through parliament, VET FEE-HELP will transition to VET Students Loans on January 1, 2017.

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