Is there a fate worse than debt? : the effects of the Nelson reforms on life long learning
conference contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Cheryl BookallilCheryl Bookallil
Life long learning, post Nelson reforms, has the potential to further reinforce the divide between the haves and the have-nots. The rise in HECS costs, the greater movement toward a “user pays” system and the movement toward on-line teaching requiring additional resources for the student, all have the potential to impact upon enrolments from equity groups. Education is not an economic commodity with benefits only for the individual…it has benefits for the whole of society, but only if the whole of society is able to access such education. In applying economic rationalism to tertiary education we risk marginalizing the sectors of our society most in need of human and social capital. With the rising cost of tertiary education the present-value calculations don’t add up for the mature learner who does not have the time left in the workforce to reap the income benefits of greater formal qualifications. Is Life Long Learning an agent of change? Can it make a difference to people’s lives for the better? For the low socio-economic who may be unemployed or “trapped” in the secondary labour market, does LLL represent an opportunity or a threat? Life long learning should not mean life long debt! It is becoming apparent that increasing numbers of prospective students are unwilling to shoulder the levels of debt required to obtain tertiary qualifications. This debt aversion has serious implications for the well being of individuals and indeed the benefits to be derived from having more ‘knowledge workers’ in the wider society. We need to ensure that life long learning is open to all, not just the privileged in our society whose access to education reinforces their privilege. Limiting opportunities for certain groups may result in unforseen eventualities that transcend just being in debt.