Cost of arts degrees to double, maths and science degrees slashed

University fees are set to double for arts degrees after the Senate rejected an emotional speech from Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie that begged MPs not to tell poor kids to “dream a little cheaper” because “you’re never going to make it”.

The Morrison Government argues the changes will “incentivise students to make more job-relevant choices, that lead to more job-ready graduates.

Under the changes, which passed the Senate today, the government will also provide an extra 39,000 university places by 2023 to meet the expected increase in demand because of COVID-19.

From next year, the cost of some degrees including maths and science will be slashed, but other degrees including arts degrees will double.

Law degrees would increase from $11,355 per year to $14,500. In other words, a law graduate would enter the jobs market with a debt of $68,000.

Students with parents who can pay upfront will secure a 10 per cent discount under amendments negotiated with One Nation’s Pauline Hanson.

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But Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie had urged the Senate to reject the changes in a tearful speech where she admitted university was never seen as an option when she was growing up in Tasmania.

“It wasn’t like I chose not to go to uni. I don’t remember ever making that choice. Growing up like I did, where I did, you didn’t see it as an option,’’ she said.

“Uni was for other people. Other people who don’t live in public housing, with dads who don’t drive trucks.

“I don’t care what those opposite offer — they can offer me a billion bucks for Tasmania, but I won’t sell out our kids in Tasmania. I will never do that, nor will I ever sell out any other Australian kid when it comes to their education.

“I’m not going to be the one who gets here and tells them to bugger off because I’m right, I’ve got mine. I refuse to be the vote that tells poor kids out there, or those sitting on that fine line — no matter how gifted and no matter how determined you are — ’You might as well dream a little cheaper, because you’re never going to make it. Because you can’t afford it.’”

Senator Lambie said the reforms represented the wrong road for Australia’s future.

“It will be one where rich kids get discounts and poor kids get debts, where, if you can’t afford to study full-time, you fail, you lose, you’re out, you’re finished, you’re gone. Get on the damn dole queue,’’ she said.

Greens education spokeswoman Mehreen Faruqi accused One Nation and Centre Alliance of doing a “grubby deal” to support the passage of the laws.

“The Coalition’s hatred of public education is on full display today. Job-ready graduates will do horrendous damage to our universities,’’ she said.

The legislation will now return to the House of Representatives but will become law after the Senate confirmed it’s support for the reform package.

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