A new learning curve
Money Magazine Australia|August 2020
A new learning curve
The federal goverment’s tertiary fee shake-up may be good news for some and spell disappointment for others

Future nurses and teachers will benefit from the federal government’s university fee restructure, but with fees for humanities, law and economics degrees set to rise, some students may be forced to rethink their options.

New students in 2021 can expect to pay about 28% more for a law degree, and the cost of a humanities degree is likely to more than double from about $20,000 to $43,500. Those looking to enrol in nursing and teaching will benefit from a fee drop of about 45%, and in science 23%. Current students, on the other hand, will not see an increase in their fees but will get the benefit of any reductions.

Weighing up the costs

Lauren Heaydon, careers coach and founder of career counseling website Mentor You, says the government’s fee change announcement has driven career decisions for some of the people she mentors.

“I had a student receive an early offer for an arts degree at the University of Notre Dame but her father talked her into a teaching degree instead,” says Heaydon. The difference was an arts degree costing $14,000 a year versus a degree in primary education costing $3500, but Heaydon says arts and communications degrees are good if you’re unsure what you want to do.

“Taking a communications track would have been a good area for her, and at the end of the third year she could do a masters in teaching for a fourth and fifth year, if she wanted,” says Heaydon. “But when the new figures came out the family thought it was too expensive to add a master’s degree costing $50,000 all up instead of a teaching degree on its own.”

Most students are not too concerned about the cost, but it is hard for parents to have their kids amass large HECS-HELP debt, especially if they are unsure of what they want to do.

Investing in education

Education is no longer seen as a once-in-a-lifetime expense. Research now suggests that a teenager today will have 17 jobs and five careers in their lifetime, and someone in their 20s will have four careers and 17 employers, changing roles every two years.

Education is a long-term investment, not a cost, and needs to be considered in that light, says independent career coach Heidi Winney.

“Ongoing learning throughout your lifespan is the norm now, particularly as we are living in such a VUCA [volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity] world.”

Winney says it’s always important to seek advice from a career development professional unless potential students have clarity around what they ultimately want to do.

“School advisers may not always be the right people unless they have industry experience and have worked in corporate environments. Some courses are more expensive now so it’s even more important to gain clarity about direction and choose wisely.


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August 2020