With submissions to the higher education base funding review due on Thursday, some organisations are starting to put their ideas out into the media. I thought I would start an occasional series on dubious proposals made to the review (though I suppose this is just a more specific version of what this blog has been about since it started).
Behind the AFR‘s paywall is a story about the Australian Technology Network’s submission. They are suggesting that graduates who work in areas of skills shortage get a discount on their HELP debt repayments.
But generally where there are skills shortages the market deals with financial incentives: the pay goes up. And why should taxpayers rather than employers fork out when staff get more expensive?
The only example given is a rather sexist one, that female engineers should be given an added incentive to stay in the profession. The Beyond Graduation survey, of graduates three years out, found that engineering graduates were already earning good money (median salary $75,000) and had the second highest rate of income growth since their first job (63%). If there is a problem with women in engineering, I doubt it is money. A female engineering graduate isn’t likely to earn more doing something else.
There is already one of these schemes in place aimed at maths, science, education and nursing graduates, with HECS-HELP remissions for those who work in designated occupations. It started in a bad year overall for graduate employment, but the initial data suggests that it has had no impact.
Given these remissions are paid to all people who head into the target occupations, who overwhelmingly would have done so anyway (eg most women who study engineering for four years are interested in being engineers), even if it has some effect it is a very expensive way to get a marginal change in behaviour.
Rather than extending HECS-HELP remissions, we should be scrapping those we have already.