It was dubbed the “biggest public policy scandal in Australian history: the systematic rorting of the vocational education and training system (VET)”.
It was the reckless policy first introduced by the Howard Government and then expanded by the Gillard Government, which gave private VET providers virtually unregulated access to government subsidies for every student they enrolled. This incentivised the emergence of dodgy colleges and salesman to enrol as many students as they could in order to gain VET FEE HELP funding. They lured unsuspecting vulnerable victims into enrolling in over-priced, dodgy courses (often online), allowing these private VET providers to gain billions in taxpayer dollars while providing very little actual education.
The VET scandal has so far cost Australian taxpayers an estimated $7.5 billion, which includes loans that will never be repaid. And it has left swathes of rorted students owing thousands in loans for courses they never finished, or qualifications that aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
Back in September, ABC’s Hack ran a report claiming that only 0.2% of VET loan complaints to the ombudsmen have resulted in refunds being granted.
Shortly afterwards, the Morrison Government passed legislation that would make waiving the debts of former students conned by dodgy private colleges easier.
Yesterday, The Australian reported that the Ombudsman appointed to rectify the VET scandal has identified another 5,340 more students eligible to have their fees waived at a cost of around $83 million:
[Legislation] passed in November and came into effect on January 1, has so far enabled 107 students to have debts of more than $3m expunged.
Those 107 students represent just 2 per cent of the backlog of complaints the ombudsman is working through…
The 5340 complaints to the ombudsman add to those of 8000 students who have already had $90m of debts waived through commonwealth and tuition assurance provisions…
This VET rorting is a textbook example of the failed ‘marketisation’ of public services that Ross Gittins lamented last year.
The policy was supposed to give students greater choice and make providers more responsive to students and employers. Instead we got a wasteful, rorted system that has delivered a huge Budget blow-out, left students with huge debts, and delivered poor educational outcomes.