What the Budget means for your child's schooling

Released in May, the federal government’s Budget will see Australian families facing a number of changes, many of which will affect school and further education. We detail the Coalition’s proposed changes to school funding, government allowances and tertiary education accessibility below.  

School funding

  • Better School Plan to be scrapped in 2017: The federal government will discontinue the Gonski school funding plan (known as the Better Schools Plan under the previous Labor government) in July 2017, with school funding indexed to inflation from 2018. Under Labor, around two-thirds of funding was to be delivered in the fifth and sixth years of the plan. The Coalition Government has committed to four years of funding, which, according to the Australian Education Union (AEU), will see approximately 20 per cent of the nation’s schools fall below the minimum resource standard.
     
  • Funding for National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program (NSCSWP): The NSCWP will continue in Australian public schools at a cost of $243 million over five years, providing funding to schools to support students through chaplaincy. Although the program has undergone changes in recent years, including a greater focus on student welfare, it remains controversial due to many parents’ and education groups’ belief that religious education does not belong in public schools. This is further complicated by the government’s announcement that it will no longer allow schools to hire secular chaplains.
     
  • Funding allocated to improve uptake of science, mathematics and languages: The government has committed $5 million to a program encouraging students to study science and mathematics, and $11.6 million to increase the uptake of languages other than English. 
     

Government allowances

  • Tougher rules for youth income support: Families may need to support adult children for a few extra years, with the government changing eligibility criteria for Youth Allowance and the Newstart Allowance. School leavers will need to wait six months before they are eligible for Youth Allowance, and young people (under the age of 30) taking advantage of Newstart will only be eligible for payments for six months out of every 12 months they are unemployed. In addition, the eligibility age for Newstart will increase from 22 to 25. These changes come into effect on 1 January 2015.
     
  • New funding for apprentices and trainees: Apprentices will be eligible for a new loan scheme, which will provide up to $20,000 in funding over four years to cover the costs of training.
     

Tertiary study costs and accessibility

  • Deregulation of university fees: If the proposal is approved, public universities will be able to set their own fees for undergraduate courses from 2016. Currently, fields of study are allotted into one of three student contribution bands, with Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) students paying a set maximum based on the field they are studying and their study load (no higher than $6044, $8613 and $10,085 for a full-time study load across the respective bands). This affects students who accept a university place after 13 May 2014, with currently enrolled students exempt from the new structure until 2020. Students who commence study after May this year will be eligible to study under the existing fee structure for one year, before shifting to the deregulated fee system in 2016.
     
  • Reduction in government contribution to CSPs: The federal government will reduce its contribution to CSPs by up to 20 per cent in 2016. These places are subsidised by the federal government, with eligible students paying a contribution rather than the full cost of tuition (see above). With the government contributing a lower percentage and universities able to set their own fees, it’s possible that future students will face much higher fees than those currently in the sector.
     
  • Extension of CSPs to accredited higher education providers and high-level VET courses: Also in 2016, the government will extend the availability of CSPs to all accredited higher education providers in a bid to make tertiary education more accessible. Previously, these subsidised places were only available at public universities and in a limited range of fields at private universities, private colleges and TAFE institutes offering higher education (generally, priority fields such as education and nursing). Further, CSPs will also be offered to students undertaking an accredited diploma, advanced diploma or associated degree at an approved institution. Traditionally, these courses have charged full fees.
     
  • Lowering of HELP loan repayment threshold and increase of loan interest rate: Changes will also be made to tuition loan schemes available to students, including the minimum repayment threshold and interest rate. This coming financial year, students and graduates will begin paying back their Higher Education Loan Scheme (HELP) loans once they are earning $53,345 — this will drop to $50,638 in July 2016. The interest rate on these loans, previously determined by inflation, at around 2.9 per cent, is likely to double to as much as six per cent per year.

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