The national organisation representing veterinarians has warned the Abbott Government its higher education changes could almost double the cost of veterinary science degrees and have a potentially disastrous impact on the profession.
Australian Veterinary Association modelling shows veterinary students could pay more than $270,000 for a degree and take 37 to 45 years to pay it off – an increase of $137,000 and nine to 17 years more than at present.
Shadow Higher Education Minister Senator Kim Carr said the AVA’s modelling was further evidence of how ill-considered and potentially damaging the Government’s funding cuts to universities and planned deregulation were.
“Vets require five to six years of study and their courses are expensive to deliver,” Senator Carr said.
“Between 80 and 90 per cent of vets are women and their starting salary is about $47,300, rising on average to $75,000, so the prospect of years and years of crippling student debt could well discourage future students.
“If they want to take a break for a few years to have children, it will be a very difficult decision because their debt will continue to grow while they are not working.
“Clearly, the Government hasn’t thought through the dangers of the near-doubling of the cost of a vet degree.”
Shadow Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Joel Fitzgibbon MP said the prospect of a shortage of trained vets was deeply alarming.
“Vets are vital in a country that depends on a strong, disease-free agricultural industry,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“From the care of farm livestock to maintaining government animal health and quarantine services, vets are absolutely essential to this sector of our economy.
“The last thing we need is for prohibitive fees and debts to discourage young would-be vets and create a shortage, leaving Australia vulnerable to a serious outbreak of disease.
“By its continuing support for these risky, ill-considered proposals, the National Party is selling out farmers, livestock producers, rural communities and the country as a whole.”
Senator Carr said Labor would not support the Abbott Government’s Americanisation of Australian universities through higher fees, crushing student debt, reduced access and greater inequality.
“This is a Government that promised no cuts to education and that it would maintain the current university system,” he said.
“Clearly, it does not understand the implications of its betrayal of young Australians and their families, and the harm that it will inflict on a number of professions, including veterinarians.”