The Australian government announced on Thursday that that it will stop subsidizing university fees for first-year students who fail half their subjects.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan announced the changes, saying that they would prevent students from taking on study loads they can’t handle.
Under the new measures, students who fail at least half of their first eight subjects in a degree will lose access to the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP), through which Australian citizens and other eligible students receive zero-interest loans from the government to pay for their tertiary education.
However, universities will be able to maintain a students’ access to the scheme if their performance was affected by exceptional circumstances.
“These measures will ensure students not to take on a study load they won’t complete,” Tehan said.
The government held A$66.6 billion ($47 billion) worth of HELP debt in financial year 2018-19.
According to the Department of Education, one student accrued A$663,000 in HELP debt after enrolling in 44 courses at 26 institutions and attaining no qualifications.
“The lack of transparency of a student’s enrolment has allowed some non-genuine students to enrol and re-enrol at multiple providers at the same time,” Tehan said.
Andrew Norton, a higher education expert from Australian National University (ANU), said that approximately six percent of students fail every subject in their first year at university.
“Many fails are avoidable if disengaged students leave before the HELP census date or the usually later date to withdraw without academic penalty.
“The government’s legislation would put more pressure on universities to check that students are engaged, especially as they move from first to second semester,” he told the media.