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October 4, 2015 | by  | in Online Only Opinion |
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Why I voted for fee rises

The costs of providing tertiary education increases every year at a rate well above inflation due to increasing international competition from developing countries, and minimal efficiency gains in delivering education compared to other goods and services. Governments have systematically underfunded universities for decades, and it’s a political football where pessimism is always in the eye of the opposition.

In voting against increasing tuition fees, you are asking the university to do more with less. You provide no choice for management but to engage in staffing redundancies and fewer tutorials, and you impact the quality of current and future students’ education. You shouldn’t vote against tuition fee increases without offering a viable alternative, especially when we face restricted government funding.

Yet if you vote in favour, the emotional reaction is that you are betraying students. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation that results in students resenting universities for a game governments have set. This allows governments to continue to escape the blame for their flawed funding system.

Victoria invests a significant amount of resources in a holistic learning experience, so you can get more out of your time here than just a few hours in a lecture theatre. But that costs money. If a marginal increase of 3% allows us to continue to attract quality lecturers in a globally competitive market, support student wellbeing initiatives, offer scholarships for disadvantaged students, pay our tutors a living wage, and have adequate spaces for things like the new vege market on campus, then I think most students would support quality over cuts.

It’s easy to conflate the cost of tuition and the cost of living when questioning how much we pay for studying. But it’s the latter that’s the problem and perpetuating social inequalities. The cost of your degree is less than the cost of borrowing to live in a mouldy flat while you’re studying. Unless we’re privileged enough to have parents to support us, or work at the expense of our studies, we’re forced to accrue even more debt. The investment in our education pays off over time, but the combined debt from the increasing cost of living is morally reprehensible and a complete intergenerational rort.

I’m not surprised by the initial reaction of some people on social media. If we want a better education system we need more people to engage in debate, but it needs to be informed. Resorting to personal attacks by falsely dismissing me as a “rich kid” says more about the depth of their thinking than it does about me.

If you are faced with a choice between cuts and quality, wouldn’t you choose quality too? If you’re angry at me and the current situation, by all means express it on the internet, but also consider taking that energy and channeling it into something constructive. Being intentionally divisive rather than informed and seeking common ground has resulted in this frustrating status quo, and it’s not going to change unless student leaders try a different approach.

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