Jschool director calls govt loan policies discriminatory

Jschool’s director was quoted in a Courier-Mail report on government and Education Department failure to support journalism students.

VET students relegated to second-class

by Vanessa Marsh (Courier-Mail, 10 February 2018)

Thousands of Queensland students could be forced to drop out of their studies after the Government quietly pulled crucial financial aid for vocational studies.

Students in hundreds of courses including dance, leadership, justice and journalism have been axed from the Turnbull Government’s list of eligible income support recipients, causing chaos in the education sector as students are forced to reject placement offers and schools struggle with the downturn in demand.

It’s a second heavy blow to the industry after students in almost 500 vocational education and training (VET) courses were blocked from receiving student loans from 2016 onwards.

Those same courses are now ineligible for income support such as Youth Allowance and Austudy, a move Jschool journalism college director John Henningham slammed as “outrageous”.

Jschool journalism college director John Henningham says changes which make some VET students ineligible for Government financial aid are discriminatory.

“It’s very discriminatory and punitive and it’s upsetting to our students,” Mr Henningham said. “They are treated differently from students studying the same sort of thing at university and it does really knock about places like us.

“We’re in the process of leaving the Government’s regulatory system because we see no benefit if students can’t get support and loans.”

Mr Henningham said the Government’s claim the changes were made to stop people rorting the system and to focus on education options with optimal employment rates was untrue.

“They’re so inept that they allowed the rorting to occur … and then they punish the good providers and the students who wanted to study,” he said.

“To discriminate against the vocational sector as opposed to the university sector is an example of the craziness of their system.”

Australian Dance Performance Institute head of musical theatre Jacqui Devereux said 10 students at the school had already been forced to quit.

“We’ve also had a lot of teary phone calls from prospective students who say they just can’t afford it anymore,” Ms Devereux said.

“The business is suffering and our students are suffering.”

Ms Devereux said many of the arts courses that had been defunded were very demanding, leaving little time for part-time jobs.

“Their skills are being directly affected because they can’t put the time in outside of school because they’re having to work so much to make up for this loss of funding,” she said.

Hundreds of courses have been axed from the Turnbull Government’s list of eligible income support recipients.

“If only people who can afford to pay upfront are allowed to do these courses then that’s no indicator of talent and we may miss an amazing talent, we may miss brilliance on stage which is really sad.”

Gene Moyle, president of Australia’s peak dance advocacy body Ausdance National, said the organisation’s submissions to have the changes overturned had fallen on deaf ears.

“I definitely think this latest (student loan cut) came as a surprise to a lot of people,” she said.

The Department of Social Services refused to comment.

‘I’LL NEED A SECOND JOB NOW’

DANCER Katherine Lambert is one of the many young Queensland students struggling to keep their dreams alive after the Government pulled crucial financial aid.

Ms Lambert crunched the numbers before moving from Darwin to Brisbane with her sick mother and determined she could make ends meet while studying a Diploma of Dance Elite Performance – but only if she could receive Austudy.

“It’s significantly more expensive so I wasn’t going to be able to move but I was approved for Austudy and was due to get my first payment on January 1. So I was going to be able to make it work between that and my part-time job teaching dance,” Ms Lambert said.

But just one day before her first payment was expected, Ms Lambert got the news her aid had been rejected due to changes in the list of eligible Austudy courses, a shock after being assured by a Centrelink employee she had been approved for aid.

“It’s just devastating and such a shock because they had told me I was approved,” she said.

“I’m going to have to try get a second job now which is hard because I’m a full-time student.”

Ms Lambert has been dancing since she was three years old and said the cuts were heartbreaking for aspiring students.

“I want this changed not just for me but for the kids that I teach as well,” she said.

“There’s so many talented kids out there that just can’t afford these costs, they just can’t.

“This is our culture, this is art and it’s so important in the community and the fact it has lost funding is shocking.”

Originally published as Students at risk after Turnbull pulls vital funds

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