THE University of New England (UNE) has slashed the cost of education for online students, reducing the price of their degree by more than $1000 in some cases.
UNE announced yesterday the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF) would be scrapped for more than 18,000 external students from trimester one next year.
Vice-chancellor Jim Barber said the university was the first among its competitors to remove the fee, reducing the cost of an online degree at UNE by up to $1120.
He said online students shouldn’t have to pay extra fees for premium services that were primarily intended for students studying on campus.
“UNE now has the highest percentage of students studying entirely online in Australia,” Professor Barber said.
“While our on-campus student intake continues to grow at a modest rate, our online enrolments are skyrocketing.
“About 80 per cent of our students study online and those students contribute the lion’s share (66.7 per cent) towards the Student Services and Amenities Fee, while receiving fewer of the benefits.”
Professor Barber said under the SSAF legislation the university was obliged to negotiate with its students about how the funds were spent; the evidence it had to date suggested it had been of less benefit to online students than originally anticipated.
He said more could be done to reduce the cost of higher education if the government removed regulatory obstacles and allowed universities to unbundle services that students neither wanted nor needed.
He said scrapping the student services fee for external students was a first step towards unbundling the optional costs of a university education.
“University students around the country are increasingly voting with their feet and not showing up to class, yet we continue to slug them for our full suite of services, whether they use them or not,” he said.