At the estimates (budget) hearing for Vote Tertiary Education yesterday there were some interesting exchanges. The ones around the lower than budgeted spend on skills training in Canterbury (despite the many offers/bids from training providers) has been well covered in the media.
We also quizzed Mr Joyce on the impact of abolishing student allowance for postrgraduate students and limiting eligibility on long courses. What this, and the written questions that we and the Greens have asked of him, show is the remarkable lack of knowledge about the impact of the policy. The best we can get is an approximation of the number of students who will be affected. No idea of the affect of the impact on particular groups such as women, nor any information on the reasons why people had extensions to the 200 week limit for allowances.
But the thing that really struck me about the answers Steven Joyce gave was when I asked him if it would have been fair to have “grandparented” all students currently enrolled in courses where they entered with the expectation of an allowance been available, so that they could finish the course under those conditions. After an ” I guess you could look at it that way”, we get a nod from Mr Joyce that he thought it was fair enough that those students would now not get an allowance.
Even if the government thinks cutting allowance eligibility is a good idea, I really think they could have looked at grandparenting everyone who is currently enrolled in a course where they would have got them. They are extending eligibility for some people (those with dependents) for a one year period. It would have been fair to have extended that.