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TAFE students hit with $10,000 course fee after subsidy axed

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Students of a TAFE photography course have been told a subsidy has been suddenly axed and they will have to pay a full $10,000 for the six-month program due to begin in weeks.

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At least one student has lodged a complaint with the public training provider, accusing the organisation of “utter disrespect” and asking for an explanation.

Bernie Elston received an email from TAFE SA last week explaining that “there has been a recent change to this course and the subsidised fee will no longer be available”.

She is due to start a Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging in July and was expecting to pay $2300 for the six-month course in subsidised fees, after sitting a 3.5 hour test for the subsidy just a few days before receiving the email.

The email, seen by InDaily, tells her “the full fees for the course are listed on the website” and directs her to a link.

That link shows the full fees to be $10,266.

Elston has told InDaily she can no longer afford the course.

She said her plans had been “completely ruined, just a few weeks out from starting a course she had hoped would help her launch her own photography business.

She said she had already bought an $800 camera required for the course, paid for using her mother’s credit card.

“If TAFE SA needs to cut the subsidy for a course, they should cut it for the future semester after they have honoured their word subsidising the current applicants,” she said.

“It’s extremely cruel to cancel current applicants’ subsidy weeks before they start, not to mention unprofessional.

“It’s like firing someone effective immediately or quitting without giving notice.”

Elston has written to TAFE SA, slamming the decision and demanding answers.

“How dare you have the audacity to offer a subsidy for an education qualification (so poor people can do it) and then take it back six weeks before the course starts,” she writes.

“I have planned my whole year around this course.

“How am I supposed to afford this course now costing $7000 more….?

“Can you please explain how this is seriously allowed to happen?”

TAFE SA responded to her complaint, thanking her for raising her “concerns” regarding the “fee increase”.

“Your correspondence is important to us and TAFE SA is in the process of investigating these concerns,” states the response, seen by InDaily.

The Australian Education Union has condemned the State Government over the subsidy cut.

AEU state president Lara Golding said “students have engaged in courses with an understanding that they would be subsidised”.

“The Marshall Government has reneged on this, charging prohibitive costs instead of supporting people to engage in life-changing education,” Golding told InDaily.

“It makes no sense to cut access to TAFE courses at a time when our economy needs rebuilding more than ever.”

A spokesman for TAFE SA said the now-unavailable subsidised fee for the course would have been $3272.50, not $2300.

TAFE SA chief executive Davild Coltman said it was a government decision to cut the subsidy and his organisation had notified students as soon as possible.

“TAFE SA has been advised that the Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging is no longer being subsidised,” he said in a statement.

“As soon as we were advised we notified the affected students.

“Our students are always our first priority and we are currently working through the options available with current applicants.

“The Certificate IV in Photography and Photo Imaging course will continue to be delivered in Semester 2 this year as a full fee paying course.”

Coltman also said “TAFE SA regularly reviews and refines the courses it delivers”.

“This is to ensure courses are aligned to the state’s current and future workforce needs and the priorities of the State Government,” he said.

“Course delivery at TAFE SA regularly changes. This can be due to changes in national training packages, changes to the subsidised training list, and changes in industry and student demand.

“These adjustments to delivery are business as usual activity.”

The AEU has recently written to the Premier calling on him to release a full list of courses to be axed this year, with fears another 39 are on the chopping block, following an announcement last year to cut 20.

Golding this morning said she had received a response from Education Minister John Gardner which “does not provide any clear answers to our questions about the future of TAFE”.

“The South Australian public should be concerned about the Marshall Government’s plans for TAFE,” she said.

“Why won’t the Premier come clean about his plans for our trusted public provider of vocational education?

“Students trust TAFE to deliver high quality vocational education, and TAFE lecturers provide that quality.

“The Marshall Government must re-invest in TAFE instead of handing public money over to private training businesses for their profit.

“The Marshall Government’s moves to cut access to TAFE courses are impacting on students now and will cost the community for generations to come.”

The reply from Gardner, seen by InDaily, says the Marshall Government “remains committed to backing TAFE SA as South Australia’s public training provider”.

“It is and will continue to be the most significant provider of training in South Australia,” his letter states.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is now giving consideration to what further measures need to be taken in this year’s Budget.”

InDaily has sought a response from Gardner to the subsidy cut.

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