New statistics released today reveal the full extent of the failure of Labor’s VET FEE-HELP scheme that has seen unscrupulous providers prey on vulnerable students and the cost to taxpayers blow out from $325 million in 2012 to $1.8 billion in 2014 and $2.9 billion in 2015.
Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the issues with VET FEE-HELP are why the Turnbull Government will shut it down at the end of 2016 with the new VET Student Loans program starting in January with course restrictions for providers, loan caps and student engagement requirements.
“The 2015 data is littered with even more examples of rorting and shonky behaviour from some providers who continue to take advantage of students and taxpayers and tarnish the reputation of the vocational education and training sector,” Minister Birmingham said.
“The Turnbull Government’s new VET Student Loans program will return integrity to the vocational education sector and deliver a win-win for students and taxpayers through a range of protections.”
Minister Birmingham said the new data showed the number of enrolments had increased from just 5,300 in 2009 to around 321,000 in 2015, highlighting the runaway growth in the scheme before our initial reforms started to fix it in 2016.
Minister Birmingham said that the structure of VET FEE-HELP scheme meant there were too many students being signed up for courses simply to boost providers’ enrolment numbers or to provide ‘lifestyle’ choices that don’t lead to work.
“Australians rightly expect that any subsidies students get are focused on areas of study most likely to improve employment outcomes,” Minister Birmingham said.
“Vocational education is a key feature of post-school learning in Australia and it is fundamental to our future success as we transition to a 21st century economy. But that means we also need to ensure that taxpayer support for students is targeted at skills that are in high demand and valued by employers.
“These new statistics highlight that up to one in five students were doing VET FEE-HELP courses not to improve their job prospects, but to pursue lifestyle interests. While I understand some people may want to broaden their experiences, we need to ensure precious taxpayer money is used to support students doing courses with strong employment outcomes, which also increases the prospects of people paying back their government loan.
“All diploma level courses were eligible under VET FEE-HELP, which meant we had a list of more than 800 courses being subsidised by taxpayers despite many being lifestyle focused with little relevance to employment outcomes.
“With our new VET Student Loans program we will ensure providers go through a rigorous application process and extensive monitoring and evaluation to ensure they are delivering education that students and employers value and that taxpayers are willing to continue supporting.
“VET Student Loans will only support legitimate students to undertake worthwhile and value-for-money courses at quality training providers.”
The 2015 VET FEE HELP Statistical Report is available at https://www.education.gov.au/vet-fee-help-statistics