New Degree Costs In Australia

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Australia has recently revamped it's government funding for degrees:
https://www.theguardian.com/austral...tem-science-maths-nursing-teaching-humanities

Guess which degree has had the biggest drop and is now the cheapest - Mathematics - a whopping 62% reduction (now only $3700 per year) - others are also just as cheap such as English, but were less expensive to start with. The reason is supposed skill shortages and future job prospects. Mathematics - yes in certain areas like Actuarial Studies and Data Analytics excellent job prospects - but overall I do not see it. And English - exactly what job prospects they have I can't really see at all. And the huge cost hike in Humanities - I thought English was a humanities subject. There is a lot here that doesn't quite gell for me.

Anyway what do others think? Personally I am a fan of no fees at all because even for degrees you would think have not much job prospects, your critical thinking skills are improved and you earn more, hence pay it back in higher tax, but that's just my view. I am also a fan of combined Bachelors/Masters where you do a Bachelors in anything you like, but a Masters in something with good job prospects.

Thanks
Bill
 
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  • #2
jasonRF
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I find it fascinating that the cost of an undergraduate degree can depend so much on the subject of the course of study. It will be interesting to see how well the price adjustments produce the desired effect.

I agree with you about having no fees. But I live in the US, and it just doesn't seem like a possibility from a political standpoint. I don't think any state will be willing and able to increase taxes enough to fully subsidize their public universities. Given that reality, I think it actually makes sense to have reasonable tuition but then enormous financial-aid budges with well-advertised guaranteed free tuition for families with incomes below some threshold. Wealthy students then pay full tuition, poor kids pay nothing and will know that before they even apply (so there isn't an additional barrier to entry), and folks in-between pay something but not an onerous amount. Even this model is unrealistic in most (perhaps all) states - it certainly is in my state and we are a liberal state that is more likely to tax than most.

Jason
 
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  • #3
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I don't think any state will be willing and able to increase taxes enough to fully subsidize their public universities.
IMHO no need to increase taxes. Simply gradually reduce fees and over time the increased revenue from the same tax, but paid on a higher earnings will pay for it. As an interim measure cutting the cost on degrees with better job prospects like we did here in Aus looks feasible to start with. Just not sure of some of the choices in degrees they think have better job prospects. Of course having a math degree myself I am happy it has been reduced - love to see more people taking that - but it's job prospects - not so sure. Having it as a double major with something like Engineering - now that sounds good.

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  • #4
Vanadium 50
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I find it fascinating that the cost of an undergraduate degree can depend so much on the subject of the course of study.
Why?

The chemistry department needs lab space. The English department doesn't. Chemistry professors are expensive. Engineering even more so. Philosophers less so.
 
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  • #5
Vanadium 50
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hence pay it back in higher tax
What about graduates who leave Australia? (Perhaps returning to their home countries)
 
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What about graduates who leave Australia? (Perhaps returning to their home countries)
It only works for those that are Australian citizens except where we have reciprocal agreements with the other country eg New Zealand. But we have a rather large number of people with dual citizenship. So yes that would work against it. Hopefully those that leave are replaced by people earning the better wages - but there is far from any guarantee of that. Why would they come - to take advantage of the lower fees - well hopefully anyway. If you do it slowly, and it doesn't work, then unfortuneately you will have to slowly raise the cost. But I think it is worth a try.

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Bill
 
  • #7
symbolipoint
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And English - exactly what job prospects they have I can't really see at all. And the huge cost hike in Humanities - I thought English was a humanities subject. There is a lot here that doesn't quite gell for me.
How is the immigration situation and the presence of non-English and limited-English speakers there? Does the country have any ongoing need to improve writing and communications skills among the population? Either or any could possibly be incentive for reducing costs for studying to get a degree in English.
 
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  • #8
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How is the immigration situation and the presence of non-English and limited-English speakers there? Does the country have any ongoing need to improve writing and communications skills among the population? Either or any could possibly be incentive for reducing costs for studying to get a degree in English.
Possibly - it's just not clear. I think the humanities hike (excluding English) is targeting degrees that some call 'ego' degrees - satisfying the interests of the student but employers by and large are not that interested in eg Women's Studies. Nothing against such degrees if it is what floats your boat, but subsidising it when there is no 'quick' payback by getting a good paying job on graduation and hence paying more tax to cover the outlay is an issue. I think even with such degrees you will eventually pay it back, but not quickly. Even degrees like that provide admission to Masters with excellent jobs prospects eg Data Analytics. It is generally thought in the future people will change career a number of times and require new skills.

During the current pandemic where people have time to study and upgrade skills, here in Aus a number of qualifications is being offered in conjunction with universities for that purpose:
https://courseseeker.edu.au/

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Bill
 
  • #9
Vanadium 50
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If the government feels that it's a good bargain to borrow (Australia typically has a deficit, although last year they had a surplus) to pay for college because they will get 25% or so of the future incremental earnings, shouldn't the individual be willing to do the same for the other three-quarters? And yet somehow student loans are evil!

As far as English (or for that matter, what another forum member calls "Grievance Studies") and useful skills, an English grad should be able to read a passage, summarize the main themes, explain how this fit into the context of the place and time of writing, describe what the countering themes were, discuss their strengths and weaknesses in that context as well as today's, and write that all up in a clear, concise package. If they graduated with that skill set, they would be of great value in industry.

Problem is, this doesn't always happen.
 
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  • #10
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You raise a number of issues here. Sure we can say you can borrow and pay back the cost of your degree - that's a legit way to go. But you have to ask why do we stop at grade 12 in free education - or rather it's paid back later in taxes - nothing is actually free. These days the world is becoming more technologically advanced and a higher level of education is needed - one can reasonably argue a degree now is what grade 12 was 50 years ago in terms of what's needed by society.

Yes, English, ie the ability to communicate clearly, critically, analytically and rationally is vitally important to society. In that sense I see its important, and why a government would want to promote it. I have had bad experiences with English teachers so I am not the person to give an impartial view, but I, like you, agree it does not always work that way in practice. Regarding Humanities in general the Sokal Affair has coloured my thinking on the whole area.

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Bill
 
  • #11
Vanadium 50
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Regarding Humanities in general the Sokal Affair has coloured my thinking on the whole area.
To be fair, that was a quarter-century ago. Things are different now. They are much, much worse. :wink:
 
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  • #12
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You raise a number of issues here. Sure we can say you can borrow and pay back the cost of your degree - that's a legit way to go. But you have to ask why do we stop at grade 12 in free education - or rather it's paid back later in taxes - nothing is actually free. These days the world is becoming more technologically advanced and a higher level of education is needed - one can reasonably argue a degree now is what grade 12 was 50 years ago in terms of what's needed by society.
"...what's needed by society." Right. That's what they are doing. They aren't just saying "a degree" is needed by society, they are investigating and prioritizing by which are most needed. I'm impressed.

And in my opinion, making them all equal (including free) eliminates much of the financial incentive for students and would likely lead to worse outcomes in the distribution of degrees.
 
  • #13
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"...what's needed by society." Right. That's what they are doing. They aren't just saying "a degree" is needed by society, they are investigating and prioritizing by which are most needed. I'm impressed.
I am not. The effectiveness of so called Mandarins does not stand up well in hindsight - even though I do believe that mathematics will be of greater value to the jobs of the future than Gender Studies - but I am honest enough to say - as I think Bohr said 'it is difficult to predict, especially the future'. But it would be interesting to know how many have read Bohr.

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Bill
 
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  • #14
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I am not. The effectiveness of so called Mandarins does not stand up well in hindsight...
I'm not familiar with the term "Mandarins".
 
  • #15
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I'm not familiar with the term "Mandarins".
It's a term used in Australia to mean bureaucrats that supposedly implement the policies of the democratically elected politicians. The policy might be - we will have an education system designed to give students the skills they need for jobs of the future. That's where you get pricing policies I posted about. They design it. Another was a directive that came down from the education minister that we need a standard curriculum throughout Australia. Since it was introduced our standing in Science for example dropped from 8 to 16. They decided, because it was felt to be the key areas of the future, that it should be built around the themes, integrated into all subjects, of Aboriginal Cultural Perspectives, Australia's Engagement with Asia, and Sustainability. As an Australian Prime Minister once said, as far as public policy goes, the devil is in the detail. Just listening to a news show at the moment how they want to get rid of the name Eskimo Pie. The reporter said - when they get rid of the Golden Gaytime (it's an ice cream that's been around for decades here in Aus) they will give it away - we are gone. I suppose science people said something similar when they read about Sokal - yet there is Vanadiums comment.

The answer of course is before implementation it needs to be reviewed by the Minister to ensure it reflects community attitudes (ie they want to be reelected), but many (not all - I know some really 'fascinating' stories where they did not) simply sign off on what the Mandarins say.

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Bill
 
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  • #16
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I have to wonder, what qualifications do the 'mandarins' have to determine the future needs of society? How many philosophers will we need in 5 years, as opposed to photographers? How may mech engineers vs how many chem engineers? I distrust this seemingly central command of higher education. With all its faults I'd prefer the market and personal choice.

On the other hand, once you decide that higher ed is to be funded by the government, it is reasonable to expect them to exercise good judgment in spending the taxpayers money. But I don't see how that is possible.
 
  • #17
jasonRF
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Why?

The chemistry department needs lab space. The English department doesn't. Chemistry professors are expensive. Engineering even more so. Philosophers less so.
Pherhaps my post was ambiguous. I fully realize the cost to the university depends on the subject. The surprising thing was the dramatic difference in cost for the student (which is what the article was about), and that a substantial fraction of the price difference between subjects has nothing at all to do with the things you mention. If the article had indicated that course costs to students will directly reflect the cost to the university then it would not be surprising at all.
 
  • #19
atyy
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Another was a directive that came down from the education minister that we need a standard curriculum throughout Australia. Since it was introduced our standing in Science for example dropped from 8 to 16.
What standing in Science are you referring to?

Just listening to a news show at the moment how they want to get rid of the name Eskimo Pie. The reporter said - when they get rid of the Golden Gaytime (it's an ice cream that's been around for decades here in Aus) they will give it away - we are gone. I suppose science people said something similar when they read about Sokal - yet there is Vanadiums comment.
Fascinating, I never knew of this controversy. Eskimo Pie is something I've loved since I was a kid, don't eat it too often nowadays only because I try to keep a healthy diet.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/20/business/dreyers-eskimo-pie-name-change.html
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/04/24/475129558/why-you-probably-shouldnt-say-eskimo
Edit: Just found out from my mum that it was my grandmother's favourite ice cream.
 
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  • #20
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What standing in Science are you referring to?
Tests comparing the knowledge of a coutries primary and secondary school students at certain ages.

, I never knew of this controversy. Eskimo Pie is something I've loved since I was a kid, don't eat it too often nowadays only because I try to keep a healthy diet.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/20/business/dreyers-eskimo-pie-name-change.html
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/04/24/475129558/why-you-probably-shouldnt-say-eskimo
Edit: Just found out from my mum that it was my grandmother's favourite ice cream.
It's the sort of thing we see at moments when an issue is something the public is 'fixated' on so to speak. In this case it's Black Lives Matter. IMHO they go overboard, but that's just my view - to the people concerned it's obviously quite important. We have seen it before. For example a lot of furore was created with the Evergreen College riots. I saw a full and detailed documentary on it by a person that attended Evergreen at the time, last night. Some of the issues were just as, how to put it, what most people consider an overreaction, like Eskimo pie. That happened in 2017, but now it's all died down. Things like this seem to mostly come and go.

Thanks
Bill
 
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  • #21
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I have to wonder, what qualifications do the 'mandarins' have to determine the future needs of society? How many philosophers will we need in 5 years, as opposed to photographers? How may mech engineers vs how many chem engineers? I distrust this seemingly central command of higher education. With all its faults I'd prefer the market and personal choice. On the other hand, once you decide that higher ed is to be funded by the government, it is reasonable to expect them to exercise good judgment in spending the taxpayers money. But I don't see how that is possible.
That's all part of the debate here in Aus about it. But pursuing it further would take it beyond what this forum is about. All I will say is for democracy to work elected officials must maintain tight oversight or the Mandarins become the de-facto 'leaders'. An amusing TV series about it was Yes Minister, and Yes Prime Minister.

Thanks
Bill
 
  • #22
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Australian universities are funded by the Federal Government to educate Australian students. Those students make a co-payment, or borrow that from the Federal Government through the HECS or HELP scheme.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tertiary_education_fees_in_Australia

A significant income was derived by tertiary institutions from foreign students who paid the institution's retail price for the course. That income evaporated with the Covid 19 lock-down and left the institutions without sufficient funds to pay their staff.

The Australian treasury had been considering QE, but seemed afraid of the political stigma, so when the corona virus shut-down hit, they leapt at the chance. Petty politics went out the window, and big popular announcements were needed to fill the vacuum. One of those was the adjustment of tertiary course fees; changes that are designed to attract more students to STEM, and to maintain the employment of tertiary institution employees.

Mathematics does not age like technology, and is an essential field that underlies the future of all technological development. For the economy, and for the next generation, it is the optimum foundation investment in education.

While employment is reduced by the lock-down, it is economically sensible to take the opportunity to subsidise education in mathematics. It will restore tertiary student numbers, but will also improve the government's performance statistics because it immediately reduces unemployment, by effectively changing employees into students.
 
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