Topics:  arts, education, fees, nsw government, students, tafe

TAFE students slugged with fee hike

STUDENTS who intend to study and complete a TAFE course next year will face increased fees and may not be able to study their chosen subject.

Last week, the NSW government announced it will cut education spending in order to maintain the state's AAA credit rating and received a lot of criticism from teachers and parents who allegedly complained to Coalition MPs.

However, the announcement was not as disastrous for TAFE colleges as many people thought, according to North Coast Institute of TAFE (NCIT) director Elizabeth McGregor.

"There are lots of other things we do which are funded differently and we'll continue to do."

"The news is not a message from the government that we have to contract significantly but it does offer a challenge for us to do things differently and more efficiently."

A rise in fees might put people off initially and in the past, TAFE experienced an initial drop off in enrolments following fee increases.

However, student numbers picked up again later, Ms McGregor said.

There was a lot of doubt regarding the funding cuts and their effects, however, a planned analysis of demand for courses would give TAFE colleges a better picture of where to direct future funding.

Funding of Fine Arts courses are set to be cut while a number of other courses may be dropped depending on the potential for students to find work in their areas of study.

Course subjects which give graduates a good chance of finding work will be given priority while subjects which lead graduates into sectors where employment is less likely may be dropped.

Yearly state and federal government skills shortage lists will play a major role in deciding which courses will be given priority and give TAFE colleges an indication where to spend their limited cash.

Ms McGregor said the NCIT would offer more courses in the Allied Health area because research indicated there were skills shortages in that sector.

"It's the sort of planning we do every year."

TAFE staffing levels could also be affected, particularly in the fine arts area.

The NCIT was looking at packaging fine arts courses to make sure they remained attractive to students although the fees had increased.

"If students don't demand these programs, some of them may disappear.

"However, the message I want to give students is that we are absolutely open for business."

"We continue to offer a big range of qualifications that can really make a difference," Ms McGregor said.



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