The State School Teachers’ Union has called for an end to the attack on the state’s TAFE system, which is being undermined by massive cuts to funding and skyrocketing student fees.
The union said the attack on TAFE would lead to more students dropping out, more courses being amalgamated and less qualified workers for industry.
SSTUWA vice president Samantha Schofield said fees for some courses had already increased by more than 300% this year and students simply could not afford more increases planned for next year.
“We have launched a petition that already has almost 1200 signatures, calling for the attack on the TAFE system to stop,” she said.
“Many of the people who have signed the petition are students currently studying at TAFE who are already struggling and are worried they will not be able to continue with their courses if the fees increase any further.”
Miss Schofield said the union was concerned that at the same time the State Government had increased fees, it reduced funding to the WA training sector by more than $45 million in the 2014/15 financial year.
“The Training Minister has made it clear he is shifting the burden onto students to make up the funding shortfall, telling parliament that $26 million will be raised through student fee increases,” she said.
Miss Schofield said the union had managed to obtain new figures which, for the first time, detail the cuts at each TAFE institute for 2014.
“TAFEs across the state have lost a total of almost $22 million from their budgets this year,” she said.
“Polytechnic West had its budget cut by $5.4 million; the Central Institute of Technology lost $4.9 million and Challenger lost more than $3 million.
“Budget cuts of this magnitude impact the level of services that can be delivered, with institutes being forced to close some courses and amalgamate others.”
Miss Schofield said the changes to TAFE had already resulted in student numbers falling by more than 5,200 this year.
“We are very concerned that thousands of young people are now missing out on quality training because they cannot afford to study at TAFE,” she said.
“While the State Government is increasing fees, the Federal Government is telling young people they have to ‘earn or learn’, but they simply cannot afford to study.”
Miss Schofield said fees were likely to increase further next year because the government planned to remove the fee cap for courses across the board.
“In 2013, the fee cap on TAFE courses was $1252. This increased to $2500 for Certificate I-IV and $7500 for Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas in 2014,” she said.
“If the fee cap is removed entirely next year, who knows what kind of fees students are going to be hit with.
“We are particularly concerned about the impact this is going to have on disadvantaged students who cannot rely on their families to help them shoulder this extra burden.”
Miss Schofield said more students would be forced to drop out next year, which would not only affect them, but local industries as well.
“Western Australia needs a well trained, highly skilled workforce, but that is not going to happen if young people can’t afford to study and get good qualifications,” she said.
The petition calls on the government not to increase TAFE fees in 2015, reduce TAFE course fees to 2013 levels and restore government funding to TAFE colleges so that every West Australian can access a high quality vocational education.
The petition, including comments, can be found at: https://www.change.org/p/hon-dr-kim-hames-mla-the-liberal-national-government-of-wa-must-not-increase-tafe-fees-further-in-2015