Yes, education will be dearer

A SEETHING mass of Southern Cross University students remained silent about the Federal Government's controversial higher education budget measures as they tackled exams.

But now, CoastRs student association president Paul Ashford has come out swinging.

He says if the changes pass through parliament, fewer Northern Rivers' residents will attend university, student retention rates will drop and students will be pushed closer to the poverty line.

Measures introduced by Education Minister Christopher Pyne and the Coalition Government include the deregulation of university fees from 2016, a higher interest rate on student loans and a lower income threshold for repayment.

"It will put a lot of pressure on us. Not just the education changes, but also other measures in the budget like the increase in the fuel excise," Mr Ashford said.

"Most of us are already working casual or part-time jobs as well as studying, so any increase in the cost of living or uni fees is extremely worrying.

"I'm absolutely opposed to any measures that make studying more difficult. Education should be as cheap as possible to encourage more people to improve their circumstances and contribute to society."

Mr Ashford said he would be inspecting the budget further along with fellow students over coming days and weeks.

"If they (Mr Pyne and PM Tony Abbott) were to visit here today I don't think they'd be received very well," Mr Ashford said.

"If students wish to protest or lobby we will support them any way we can, even if that's just putting a barbecue on."

The Department of Education told Fairfax Media that students who enrol now will be charged the current fee until December 31, 2015, when any new arrangements will come into play.

A Southern Cross University spokeswoman said the university was considering the implications of the budget changes.

"This is a period of significant change within the higher education sector and we are still to see how this will progress through the Senate," she said.

"We will be providing information to keep students and the community informed as decisions are made."



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