The first round of organisations approved to offer the Commonwealth’s new VET Student Loans program during the “transition period” (to 30 June 2017) includes four CCA members: Community College Gippsland, Kiama Community College, St George and Sutherland Community College and WEA Hunter. A small number of other not-for-profit organisations and associations have also been approved, including the Lady Gowrie Child Centre (Melbourne), the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the South Australian Sports Federation and Marr Mooditj Training Aboriginal Health College (Western Australia). Which providers are approved to operate the scheme from 1 July 2017 should be known soon, as applications for that period closed on 19 February.
A highly critical report on the VET Student Loans program has been issued by the LH Martin Institute, University of Melbourne. The report, entitled The VET Student Loans Scheme: Is it a good model? by Mark Warburton, notes that:
- The scheme is under-developed and its implementation has been rushed. While many individual provisions sound reasonable, when put together they do not form a coherent scheme which is simple, fair and efficient for students and providers.
- The Department of Education and Training has not been given sufficient time to develop or implement the scheme, including consultation with VET providers.
- While the scheme’s potential financial contribution to the VET sector allows up to $2.1 billion/year, it is possible that only $800 million/year may be lent.
- The situation for VET providers is especially problematic, in terms of loan amounts, administration and decision timing; the report is especially scathing about transparency of provider approval conditions and accountability for the provider approval process.
CCA CEO Dr Don Perlgut reiterated CCA’s position that this new program will do very little for community providers and their students, a large percentage of whom are from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds. “Although the new scheme is a vast improvement on the much-maligned VET FEE-HELP program, VET Student Loans only supports Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses, while most of our students participate at Certificate III and below,” Dr Perlgut said.