Taxpayers ripped off again

Victorian universities are predictably complaining about their failure to secure many of the handouts from the federal government’s Voluntary Student Unionism Transition Fund.

But the people who really should be complaining, yet again, are Australia’s taxpayers. They must pay the $80 million used to swing National Party support behind the government’s plan to abolish the ‘compulsory’ student amenities fee at universities. But which is the more obnoxious compulsory fee, taxes or fees paid by people who choose to attend university? The policy was another example of Brendan Nelson’s considerable ability to suppress cognitive dissonance and implement policies that contradicted his rhetoric.

6 thoughts on “Taxpayers ripped off again

  1. Shouldn’t it be W.A. that’s complaining? What a pittance!

    But as a taxpayer I’m not complaining – it’s a good investment in helping students develop healthy habits (essential given the way we’re going), and perhaps a good investment in attracting overseas students to our campuses (by making them attractive).

    In this case I prefer taxes to fees.


  2. “Who needs expensive faclities to exercise?” – well apparently an awful lot of people when you look at how many gyms / health clubs there are around. (I prefer the beach).

    “How many os students come for the recreational facilities? ” – don’t know, but likely more will come for good facilities than bad facilities. Are there not benefits to other parts of the community from having os students here – why should only fee-paying students pay for attracting them?


  3. C’mon Andrew, isn’t it just continuing the great tradition of porkbarrelling for National Party support, part of the political fabric of this nation?

    I never understood why student association fees were hardly ever clearly described. They were up-front fees on the whole body of students, sometimes quite substantial fees, that usually went to some combination of sporting, facilities and representation associations. These associations didn’t need to necessarily be responsive to the wants and/or needs of students, and there often weren’t any imperatives for these associations to become more efficient in how they operated.

    If there are to be general fees on students to provide uni facilities, then an upfront fee could be replaced with an increased HECS charge, although that may reduce the need for student associations to be responsible for how they spend the students’ fees.

    Should there be general fees on students to provide facilities? Good question. If there are, this seems a little bit like a redistributive welfare system in a fairly poor population, where resources are redistributed from those who don’t use the facilities much to those that do. Hmmmmmm.

    Let’s see – I imagine the general argument for student facility fees is that they are facilities that students use and so should pay for them. This sounds reasonable – alternatively, I wouldn’t mind the taxpayer paying for them as part of the general university setup. It does seem very strange, however, that fees can be taken from students who might never use the facilities (a common complaint directed at the Qld Uni sports association when I was an undergrad).


  4. Sacha – Back in 2005 I did argue (at considerable length [pdf]) that the separation of the tuition fee and the amenities fee was now an anachronism. And I think there are good arguments at the university level for more user pays and lower general charges. But I also thought that this is something that should be decided in the market, with some unis (the sandstones, probablly) likely to have high charges to create a particular university experience, and other unis having a lot of user pays to keep the base prices low. Why should the government make these trade-offs for us? And why should taxpayers pay for a sports association they will certainly never use?


  5. “And why should taxpayers pay for a sports association they will certainly never use?”


    But remember the “argument”, used when the VSU legislation was being debated, that university sports fields and facilities have positive externalities (off-campus people and clubs can use them) and that these positive externalities would be diminished if VSU was brought in? I really disliked this argument – and if taxpayers paid for sports associations, the fraction of taxpayers benefitting from these associations would be pretty tiny.


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