ARTIST and musician Jimmy Willing predicts Lismore will suffer an exodus of aspiring artists thanks to skyrocketing TAFE fees and watered-down courses.
This is a result of state government funding cuts to TAFE and a new model from next year where TAFE will compete with private providers for funds to run courses.
For Mr Willing, who recently started studying film at Lismore TAFE, the moves put at risk Lismore's reputation as a regional arts hub.
"This campus has the finest arts faculty in the region and to cut it back when it's already been cut back is a travesty," Mr Willing said.
"The arts course here is quite incredible.
"It teaches the basic ABCs - it's not just intellectual, it's hands on."
Greens candidate for Lismore Adam Guise, who is campaigning on a platform to protect TAFE from more cuts, said students in Lismore now have to pay $12,000 to study art at TAFE.
He said fees were set to rise by 30-40% and student loans would be set at commercial lending rates.
Lismore and Wollongbar TAFE have lost 12 full-time positions since cuts began.
"We're going to see classes aggregated; condensed teaching hours and a push to online learning," Mr Guise said.
"The opportunities are already limited and to cut into the regional mainstay of education for 100 years will have devastating impacts on the regional economy."
One of Mr Willing's classmates is 16-year-old Jesse Corlett, who left school after Year 10 and is studying a Certificate IV in Screen and Media.
Jesse said the course had given him an avenue and opportunities to learn about an industry he was keen on, but the changes to TAFE might make it less affordable for younger students.
"We have great teachers; I'm learning more about film than I did in school," he said.
But Mr Willing said young people would be forced to leave the region if they wanted to pursue careers in the arts.