In March of this year TAFE student Jason Alford was charged full-fees for his certificate three in plumbing but was entitled to a concession discount. This was a result of a nuance in the TAFE fees regulations stating:
Prior to the commencement of training, the RTO (Registered Training Organisation) must sight and retain copies of all documentation demonstrating an individual’s eligibility for the fee concession granted by the RTO for audit or review purposes and to meet the record keeping requirements set out in Section 6 of these Guidelines.
Essentially, Jason needed to present proof he was entitled to a concession discount before his first class.
Jason said this was not the case last year and this was “a new set of rules”.
These rules, however, were a part of the 2013 Guidelines about fees. The 2014 application for TAFE fee concession and exemption form also stipulates: “You must submit your application with your supporting documentation prior to your first scheduled class. No applications will be accepted after this date.”
Regardless, this could be considered a difficult ask. TAFE students are usually undertaking another form of vocational training as well as their studies at university.
Jason advised, “I have a full-time job and it’s often hard to find the time to get here.”
Having been unable to complete the concession application process before classes began Jason was charged the full fee which can be up to $1500 more than what is typically around $550.
This is particularly concerning in the midst of Victorian government’s TAFE funding cuts.
Casper Cumming, Student Rights Officer, says costs for students have become “crushingly onerous”.
“The quality of education has dropped, with more and more teaching staff being casualised, online components of programs replacing face to face teachers, high staff turnover and poor organisation of courses,” he told Catalyst.
“We are seeing the transformation of education from a right and a public service into a privilege for the rich, and the transfer of taxpayer funds from educating the disadvantaged, to subsidising the profits of private education providers and the salaries of senior management and Vice Chancellors at public institutions like RMIT, where the Vice Chancellor receives a higher salary than the Prime Minister.”
Given the increasing cost of tertiary education the idea of an extended grace period or a avenue of recourse such as a late application process might be worth considering.
When contacted for comment, Jeanette Roxburgh from student administration, made the following statement:
In mid December (16 Dec), it came to our attention in the Academic Registrar’s Group that there were State Government changes to the assessment of students eligibility for a TAFE fee concession and exemption.
Due to the University closing the following week for the Christmas break, an emergency communications strategy was developed.
The strategy involved the university updated website pages, emailing students and notifying teaching staff.
By Mark Barnes
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