The number of high school students applying for university has plummeted to the lowest rate in a decade, the University Admissions Centre says, as students are choosing different paths during the cost of living crisis.
The number of early bird Year 12 applications sat at 38,836, the centre said, the lowest number across all 13 years of available data.
Although this data doesn’t include direct applications, universities have reported a general decline in demand for services over the past few years.
Speaking to PEDESTRIAN.TV, 16-year-old Haniya, who is in her final year of high school, said she wasn’t going to university as it didn’t suit her learning needs.
“I am a very hands on learner and I prefer to do a practical based course rather than an academic based course,” she said.
“Instead of uni, I’ll be going to TAFE (Technical and Further Education) for ceramics. I don’t have a job lined up, but after TAFE, I plan to work a regular job, and do ceramics on the side as it pays quite well.”
Haniya said that the cost of living crisis, alongside debt concerns, played a role in her decision.
“HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme) debt is something I am quite worried about, seeing as I would accumulate a lot if I went to uni, because I don’t know what I would do, and I would bounce around courses for a while before I found anything I like, if I find anything at all,” she said.
“HECS debt is something that I’ve seen take decades to pay off for some people, especially if they spend a lot of time switching courses because they don’t have a course in mind when they start.
“Knowing that HECS debt can cause issues in the future and get in the way of things such as paying rent and groceries if I do not end up with a high enough paying job to ignore it, is an issue that worries me and discourages me from attending uni.”
Fincancial barriers have proven to be a common theme for people choosing not to attend university. In the interim Australian Universities Accord, published earlier this year, the authors found that such barriers to education were a significant factor in people not starting or not finishing courses.
“One of the obvious barriers to studying is the cost of participation — something which affects underrepresented groups the most,” the report said.
“Recent inflation can only have made this situation worse. In the absence of relief, more students are likely to defer or discontinue their studies.”
Ultimately, the report found that serious changes needed to be brought about to encourage students to attend university. It predicted that by 2050, 55% of jobs would require higher quality education, and more than 90% of jobs to be created over the next five years will require a qualification.
Without change to the sector, it found, Australia could be looking at a serious shortfall of skilled workers.