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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 42 ..

Year 12 Evening College Program

MR OSBORNE: My question is to the Minister for Education, Mr Stefaniak, regarding enrolments in adult education evening courses. Is it not true that Year 12 evening courses have risen in price tenfold on last year and as a direct consequence the numbers of students have apparently fallen drastically, to the point where the total Canberra 1996 enrolment now stands at just over 100, when only last year some colleges had individual enrolments of nearly 300? In light of this and the fact that a class needs at least 15 students, I am told, to be viable, how do you expect the adult education programs to function effectively and not totally collapse?

MR STEFANIAK: I thank the member for the question. The fact is that they will function. That is occurring at this time, so I do not think Mr Osborne need have any concern in relation to that. The Government recognises the opportunity for improving one's life changes through further study, and that can be made available through a number of things and is available to everyone regardless of age. Of course, most evening college students are adults.

I think the real point in question here is how to provide the most appropriate program and pathways for these adults who wish to gain university entrance or the Year 12 certificate and how to provide those programs in a fiscally prudent and cost-effective way. The decision to withdraw funding to evening college operations was made in order to improve the cost-effectiveness of that program, which was very heavily subsidised. The Government has decided that, as a result of decisions taken last year, students who commenced a two-year package in 1995 will be able to complete their studies this year under the same fee structure as applied for 1995. With the removal of the general subsidy, an appropriate subsidy for Year 12 evening college students who hold pension cards has been set. There will also be no changes in the arrangements for students with special needs.

Four colleges advertised evening programs this year at a cost, for those students who were not affected by all those concessions, of $450 per course or $1,350 for a Year 12 program, and at cost price. The four colleges have offered five courses each. They have enrolled approximately 144 students, I am told, to this point in time. Interestingly enough, that is in line with the number of students who achieved the Year 12 certificate from evening study last year; that is, 85 students last year achieved a Year 12 certificate. In relation to earlier years, my department estimates the number of students who completed an evening Year 12 program, that is, the program and the certificate - the certificate is different from the Year 12 program - to be 110 students in 1994 and 105 students in 1993.

A number of things should be said in relation to evening colleges. The industrial award which pertains to evening colleges requires that before one student enrols an evening college principal and evening college administrator should be appointed at a total cost of $14,000 per college. As well, in the past, janitor costs and clerical assistant costs of approximately $26,000 have also been part of the overheads. That has meant that for the program overall the flag-fall cost has been $160,000 before one student has walked through the door. Overheads of this magnitude are clearly unacceptable and make the program unavailable in the colleges without a very large subsidy from the taxpayer.

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