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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1715 ..

MRS CARNELL (continuing):

Now, we were not hypocrites. We supported that industry assistance package to one company to keep jobs here in the Territory. As for Ms Follett's comment on picking winners, I think Ms Follett should remember Auspace - a very good decision - but she also should remember VITAB.

Evening College Course Fees

MR OSBORNE: My question is to the Minister for Education, Mr Stefaniak. As a consequence of this year's budget, I am very concerned about the future of the adult Year 12 program, particularly the one at Erindale College. I understand that a reasonable cross-section of students who use this program are 20- to 30-year-old females who are either mothers who are trying to re-enter the work force or women who currently have part-time or low-paid work and for a number of reasons need a locally run course. The current annual Erindale College course fee is about $165. The only alternative to this at the moment is a $900 fee at the Canberra CIT. Minister, next year when the college fee goes up to about $800, will this not be an example of a barrier where "the financial cost of using the service discourages or prevents those who are entitled to use the service from accessing it"? In case you missed the quote, it is from one of the Liberal Party papers released last year containing guidelines on its access and equity policy. Quite simply, Minister, this new fee system will not do. What are you going to do to change it?

MR STEFANIAK: I thank Mr Osborne for the question. A fair bit has been said in the last week in relation to this matter, especially by people saying that the fees will be the same as they are at TAFE, which is about $800. I do not think that is necessarily so. The first point I want to make is that this is more than just a cost-recovery exercise for adult education. It does do that, of course; but the second point is that it is not just about people studying for either Year 12 certificates or university entrance. In fact, many people attending evening colleges are not registered for either Year 12 or university entrance. What this initiative does, Mr Osborne, is remove restrictions on the number of colleges able to offer evening college programs. At the same time, it removes the subsidy provided to the four colleges currently operating evening colleges. The effect will be to improve access and equity for evening college students and have the evening college program become more cost-effective. I want to emphasise that colleges are not being forced to participate.

There has been concern expressed that this move will disadvantage some people, as you say, Mr Osborne. I want to stress, though, that this is not a black-and-white issue. The department is well aware of the sensitive issues of access and equity involved. People enrol in evening colleges for a variety of reasons, not just to complete their schooling or qualify for university entrance. In fact, some people enrol in individual units of study for self-improvement, to pursue a particular body of knowledge, or to acquire certain skills. We need to recognise that a lot of evening college students are not necessarily there just to try for Year 12 certificates and university entrance.

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