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A tuition question


In an Australian story "A Farmer's Life" by Ernest Bywater, there's this bit: "The government pays the tuition fees for university students, but there's far less scholarships than there used to be; and it makes going to university harder because the student's family have to cover all the other costs of attending."

Ernest, is this still the case? FYI, there's no such thing as free tuition in the US (unless the student is a recruited pigskin ball player). The big banks despise the competition.

Dominions Son


The big banks despise the competition.

Nearly all student loans are underwritten directly by the government these days.


In 1974 the Whitlam Government abolished University fees.

Then in 1989 the Hawke government setup HECS (Higher Education Contributions Scheme) where Uni fees were reintroduced & paid for the by the Government- The fee to the student was $1,800. If the student couldn't pay at the time, they were able to defer the payment, and it became a HECS debt & they paid it off once they got a job. The government paid the balance left over after the $1,800 from the student.

Then in 1996 the Howard government revised the HECS scheme & there were 3 tiers, courses that would result in higher earnings attracted higher charges. Many of the HECS fees were bumped up by as much as 40%, and the Unis were allowed to create full fee paying postilions.

In 2005-6 there were further reforms, which basically saw fees increase still further.

The Abbott government was trying to deregulate things completely, but since he got ousted that appears to have settled down, for now.


EDIT- clarified original $1,800 HECS fee.

Ernest Bywater


Until the early 1970s all tertiary education was full fee, either paid for by the person, a company giving them a scholarship, or one of many state and federal government scholarships. Then Labor Prime Minster Gough Whitlam changed the legislation to have tertiary education for citizens to be fee free. Now, that's the course fees we're talking about, and only the course fees. Because of that he eliminated all, or almost all (not sure due to conflicting information), government scholarships. Other legislation changes at that time also saw the elimination of most private scholarships as well. That's still the situation today.

We have socialised education to the tertiary level. The downside:

1.More students going to university means bigger classes for some subjects and harder to get into for other subjects. Thus, the overall quality has dropped (according to some university to staff).

2. First year drop-outs used to be under 5 % now run nearer 45% because that's the very first place the students hit a pass or fail exam. Many students go on to university despite knowing they don't have what it takes to get through university.

3. Attendance at university is harder to maintain now. This is due to the associated costs the students have to meet, like books, excursions, living expenses. These used to be covered by a lot of the scholarships (not all), but with those scholarships no longer existing the students and their families have to cover them.

Since then a system called the Higher Education Contribution Scheme was introduced by a later Labor Government in 1989. This is akin to the US student loan system whereby tertiary students have to pay a portion of their salary after they graduate to help fund the tertiary education system. Since we still have a full fee system for foreign students one way to avoid a HECS debt is to be a full fee student as well. By paying full fees you also have more freedom in your studies.

Initially the HECS fee was a nominal amount and charged to all students. The idea was to discourage people who knew they'd be failing from going to university to start with. now the HECS rate varies with the type of course the student is enrolled in. There have been significant changes to the system since, ones I'm not familiar with. The HECS fees aren't the same as the full fees paid by foreign students, but it's no longer a free ride.

Although the Labor Party still point to the tertiary system and speak of the government provided free tertiary education for all, that's not really the case today. What it is the the Labor established systems provide for you to get a university education by having the government pay for it up front, but you then have to pay for it later through both normal taxes on every worker and HECS repayments.


Today the federal government will pay your university fees for you to go to university and let you run up a HECS debt which you pay back once your taxable income reaches a certain level - no up front course costs by you. But you still have to pay for text books, exercise books, computers, housing, clothes, and food yourself. there are a few private scholarships, but not many and they're hard to get.

If your income never gets high enough, you never have to pay back your HECS debt - which is what happens with 99% of the drop-outs, and some graduates.

edit to add: For some reason the full fee for a citizen student is a less than the full fee for a foreign student in many courses. This is the case at many tertiary institutions, but not all of them.

Replies:   graybyrd

@Ernest Bywater

Fascinating! Thank you. (I'll avoid political commentary, except to mention that one of the largest debt loads in the US today is the total student loan debt of about $1.2 Trillion. And banks, who essentially receive interest-free money from the Feds, can loan it to the students for rates from 4.29% to 6.84% -- directly underwritten by the Federal government! Thus, banks cannot lose and are guaranteed a profit on the backs of American university students. Sweet deal!

Replies:   docholladay


The pity is that instead of encouraging them to take the courses one or two at time. (If that is all the student can afford)

The universities and countries encourage them to go into a huge debt which has the potential of creating a huge problem for them and everyone else. Sure loans and such should be available to potential students. But only after the full information as to the actual risks are given to them. It might lower the failure rates and the loss to the budgets for all the countries not just one or two.

I can't help but think of a piece of advice I got over 40 years ago. "Take care of the bread and butter bills first. Then the gravy will take care of itself." It sure makes it easier to come up with a livable budget even on a fixed income.


Well, here in the good old Federal Republik of Germany, you pay a small semester fee (~€200) which usually includes free use of the local public transportation system (~30 km radius give or take). University education at the state universities (95% of universities) including engineering schools is mostly free. There was an attempt to introduce tuition (roughly €1,200 per semester), put it was largely abolished in the last years.
For my daughter to attend law school at the Humboldt University in Berlin, I had to pay her share of the lease for an apartment (€200/mo) and her living costs (€300/mo). She just finished the 5-year program and it cost me €32,000 all included, €20,000 if I deduct the federal benefits (€195/mo/child) you get for raising children.
Basically, the states and the federal government pay for all education from primary to tertiary as an investment into the next generation. We have a higher tax rate to be sure, but our young people can get the best education we can offer for free. This all provided they have the requisite grades in secondary education.
There are a few private universities, academies, often offering academic grades for people already working, mostly business or management courses, but the vast majority of tertiary education is at state universities.


US Tuition varies very widely. Most Ivies (most prestigious private schools) are incredibly expensive ($50,000+), but subsidize all of tuition and most of living expenses for lower-income students; many do so for all students -- this is due to their incredible endowments. State colleges range from $5000 to $15000 for residents.


As with the US, tuition in Canada varies wildly. I have no information about Eastern Canada, which may operate more similar to the US model, but I can provide details about British Columbia. Education in Canada is handled Provincially, although the federal government handles education issues for Aboriginal peoples due to their treaty status. Mostly this means options for academic support (scholarships, living in homes of local aboriginal families, and cultural centres), but there are some Aboriginal colleges.

In BC, "college" refers to Community Colleges, which offer university prep. and Associates degrees (ie, first two years of university equivalent classes), and Trade Colleges. Many colleges will offer both types. Colleges have more classes in the afternoon and evening, allowing for adult education, and often have somewhat easier grading.

Costs for college classes vary a lot depending on the class type. The September 2015 tuition fees for my local college show $250-350 for most university equivalent classes, but trade courses range from under $200 (basic admin) to over $1000 (Carpentry, Medical Assistance practicum). There's also a heavy emphasis on English as a Second Language in BC, both for local students and international students (who are charged as much as three times more for tuition alone).

Universities in Canada offer the traditional degree programs, but we're on the shorter term system, not the semester system like the US (though many students will still use the word "semester"). There are four terms: Winter (Jan - Apr), Spring (May - Jun), Summer (Jul - Aug), and Fall (Sep - Dec). The Spring & Summer terms teach the same material (and cost the same) but with either longer classes or more classes per week. The last month of each term is set aside for exams, so each term is actually 14 weeks (usually 26- 80 minute classes or 39- 50 minute classes).

The last class I took was Winter 2015, at which time tuition worked out to around $675. Of that, the basic class cost was $515, with the remainder covering student society fee, athletics fee, and a bus pass (non-optional). Books usually come to another $50 - $150 per class. There is also an optional medical insurance plan for just under $100 per term; for full time students (3 classes or more per term), the medical plan is non-optional and included with fees.

Interestingly, my student email account is still good despite not having taken classes in a year, and that allows me to continue using electronic library resources and to access institutional and academic databases.

P.S. - You can get this from Wikipedia (I did), but currently in BC there are 11 Universities, 11 Colleges, and 3 Institutes which are all publicly funded, with an additional 3 Private Universities, 5 Private Colleges, and 6 Theological Colleges which are not.

Replies:   docholladay


What you describe sounds great. A student could plan their education so that the pressure money wise would be cut to a minimum. Only a fool would think going into debt to get an education would not create a huge pressure on a student. Where taking what can be managed money wise per term might and probably would mean a 4 year degree might take 8 or more years, at least it would not incur a long term debt which might take who knows how long to pay off if ever.


The other cost of getting a degree is not always discussed. Students postpone entry into the job market by at least four years, often more than that as a traditional Bachelors degree tends to take longer than 8 semesters or 12 quarters. Summer terms may speed the process but at higher cost and depending on major may not offer mandatory classes.

If students were to skip University and start their career four or more years earlier, they would gain seniority in jobs where pay and advancement may depend on time in the job and obtain multiple years of salary they forgo to get the degree.

Clearly there are jobs where a degree is required to get hired, and some of them are well paid (not teaching). But many jobs like longshoreman, plumber, auto repair, some sales positions for gifted salesmen are higher paid than many starting jobs reserved for graduates. Sometimes most of the benefits of a four year degree can be obtained with shorter courses or part time schooling, outside of working hours. Depends on what career you want. Well paid work in the medical field almost always requires far more than four years of higher education. In theory you can pass the bar exam by being an apprentice to another lawyer. Maybe that isn't the case now, but it used to be. Abraham Lincoln, for example.

Some Insurance careers have designations like CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter) or CPCU (Certified Property Casualty Underwriter, aka Can Pass, Can You?) where night classes and a series of examinations demonstrate skill and/or dedication to the Insurance business. You may not need a four year (or more, as often happens due to non-availability of mandatory classes to fit your schedule) to start a satisfactory career. And start your lifetime of earnings earlier than the conventional student.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater


If students were to skip University and start their career four or more years earlier, they would gain seniority in jobs where pay and advancement may depend on time in the job and obtain multiple years of salary they forgo to get the degree.

I don't know what it's like in the USA or the UK etc, but in Australia the Federal Government have two major entry points for general administrative jobs, one is dependent upon passing the entry exam and is usually where high school students enter the system as a Class 1 or Grade 1 Clerk or Admin, the other is to enter as a Class 5 or Grade 5 Clerk or Admin simply because you have a university degree. now, I can understand if you've a uni degree in business administration of civic administration or a degree in the speciality of the unit you're joining, such as a degree in logistic in the purchasing unit, but even a uni degree in advanced button sorting gets you a level 5 entry - which is pretty damn stupid. Also, now that a lot of the middle managers and senior managers are uni graduates they feel only a uni graduate has what it takes to be a middle manager or senior manager and experience means nothing compared to any uni degree. I'll let you work out what that attitude means in the way of competency at those levels - but really explains why the Peter Factor works so well.

Replies:   richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

As I recall the Peter Principle indicates workers will not get promoted once they have reached the level at which they are incompetent. That does not appear to apply to most government jobs. Promotions occur there way past incompetence levels, until the job occupant is clearly dangerous to others. And even then, removal of a civil servant (aka civil Master) is virtually impossible.

The Peter Principle can be demonstrated where job performance results in observable results like dollars of sales or profit or units of product produced. Since government jobs are not often rewarded based on observable results, it can be hard to say when a job holder has reached incompetence. For example the US Veterans Administration which attempts to provide medical services for retired military does an unusually poor job compared to civilian hospitals, which are no paragon of performance themselves. Government jobs go on forever and performance has very little to do with retention or promotion.

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