They emerged as a budget measure, but they won’t save the tax-payer money in any real sense.
A fundamental feature of HECS is that the Government forwards all the money upfront to the University. So if fees go up by more than the cuts, the Commonwealth shells out more from day one. Default will rise. More students will work overseas – legitimately, this is not evasion – and so only through some arcane aspect of accounting standards can this even look as if it is a savings measure.
This isn’t a savings measure: it is ideology in search of a problem.
But it gets worse. Bizarrely there is no guarantee that a single cent of the extra money will go into the student’s course: it could go into research, infrastructure, paying for past follies or current cock-ups. It’s tempting, believe me, I make them too, but it’s wrong.
The internal equity aspect of the policy design is laughable: why should the second poorest quartile of students subsidise the lowest quartile?