Lachlan Smith



Why should I help pay for your university degree?


May 22, 2014

Australians enjoy a high standard of living. Even if you didn't go to university, you are probably still contributing to other peoples university degree. If we look at it from a nation building perspective this is a good thing. Rather than treat a university degree as a way for the recipient to make money and get ahead, the liberalist approach, we should instead consider the contributions these people make to society.

Some of these degrees have benefits that far outweigh the cost to the tax payer and the recipients ability to pay for the degree.

Doctors are the backbone of the health system providing services that keep well. Medical students sacrifice at least 7 years of their working life to train as a doctor, many going onto further study and specialisation out of their own pocket. After missing out on 7 years of earning potential students are compensated with a degree that has a higher long term earning potential. At the moment thanks to your tax payer contributions entry pathways to this profession are equally available to everyone subject to entry requirements which are purely based on academic performance.

It is important to recognise that at this stage most students are equally poor. No school leaver has any meaningful equity. So to say that a student should pay more because their parents are wealthy when the student is legally recognised as an adult is misleading.

But medical students aren't the only degree to provide community benefit for your tax money. Teaching students will provide educational opportunities to the future generations. Engineering students will ensure that buildings, bridges, transport, and industry act with the community's ethics when it comes to safety. Pharmacists will ensure dispensed drugs are compatible. Lawyers form the judicial branch of the law and ensure that the community expectations are interpreted by the a application of the law against anyone who breaches the trust of the community.

Increasing the cost of a university education on the student will only act to widen wage inequality in the community as those with more expensive degrees will seek higher remuneration to pay off their HECS-HELP debt. This can only act to further disadvantage those in the community who did not attend university as the cost of services now has to compensate for the true cost of the training, rather than through taxation. Through taxation those on higher income levels essentially contribute more towards university education and thereby essentIal services.

It is really quite simple, taxpayers contribute upfront support to university students to ensure the community is provided with the services required of the high standard of living afforded to ordinary Australians. Changes to these dynamics has potential long term consequences to the affordability of services on ordinary Australians, particularly lower income earners who generally pay less tax anyway.

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