SHOULD university be for smart people or rich people?
If the changes proposed by the Federal Government as part of the 2014 Budget go through, that decision will have been made for all of us. It will only be rich people – just like wearing your collar up, grand final tickets with a decent view, any dog that’s crossed with a poodle, owning a property outright, drinking French champagne and dating Lara Bingle.
Now I’m happy to let the wealthy pick up the poop of their hypo-allergenic dogs, wear salmon pink polo shirts with starched up collars and pretend to know the difference between cheap bubbly and expensive champagne. However, I’m not at all comfortable with the winners of the birth lottery getting increased access to higher education.
The Government wants to cut the amount they give to universities, deregulate course costs and charge higher interest rates on student loans. Evidence, logic and even Clive Palmer are all screaming that this is a horrible idea.
Liberals are claiming that prices may drop under this system. That’s rubbish. How do you cut funding to something and expect that same thing to be cheaper?
If you go to the supermarket and pay less for bananas, you’re going to end up with fewer or poorer-quality bananas and I don’t want either of those things. I live on bananas, and beer.
What will happen is that the more expensive courses will only be for those who can afford them.
Admittance used to be based on merit, not on cash. So instead of having the most-intelligent young people studying the most-expensive courses, we’ll have the wealthiest. Which is terrifying.
Who do you want building your bridges? The person who understands maths and complex design principles? Or the bloke in the salmon pink shirt?
Or, in court, do you want a lawyer who scored top marks and knows the legal system back to front? Or one who goes to the top tailor and only knows the wine list back to front?
Do you want the best surgeon, or the surgeon who has the best jewellery?
Once upon a time, back before beards were a fashion statement, when tattoos were only for criminals and sailors, and cardigans weren’t available second-hand, university used to be free for everyone.
Since then, the university system in Australia has become increasingly unfair, with dedicated places for full fee paying students, the erosion of student unions and increasing course costs.
Under the latest proposed system, even if one of the less wealthy manage to sneak in, they’ll be lumbered with so much debt they’ll be dead before they manage to pay it off and it’d be several lifetimes before they can even contemplate a home, a spoodle or asking Lara Bingle out for a champagne.
One core Australian value used to be a fair go for all. That if you work hard, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you’re just as likely to succeed.
In modern-day Australia, that value is very quickly becoming a myth.
This article first appeared on The Brisbane Courier Mail:
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.