University students will be cut off from HECS funding and other government support payments if they fail more than 50% of their courses under vicious new legislation proposed by the Federal Government.

Education Minister Dan Tehan today said the new rules would prevent students with “low completion or progression rates” from accumulating further HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP debts.

The changes would also require universities to make further efforts to ensure students are “academically suitable” for the courses they’re enrolled in.

Tehan says universities will be able to make exceptions if students can demonstrate that underlying circumstances contributed to those course failures.

However, the statement only uses illness and bereavement as examples of valid “impacts”, leaving factors like homelessness, mental health issues, and poverty completely unaddressed.

Tehan says the proposal is designed to stop students from racking up big debts with little to show for it, and pointed to a couple of fringe cases where folks accumulated six figures on their HECS tab.

But the proposed legislation appears to focus on an issue that’s already been sorted. As pointed out by the Sydney Morning Herald, the move to boot students from HECS comes two years after the government installed a $100,000 cap on HELP debts that any one person can accrue.

Today’s announcement comes shortly after the Federal Government revealed plans to radically alter its university funding model, effectively doubling the price of humanities degrees while driving students into fields like nursing and agriculture.

Taken together, the proposed legislation feels like another attempt to churn young Australians into the sectors the Federal Government believes are worthwhile, while making it more difficult for anyone without deep pockets to pursue their chosen field of study.

“Our reforms will make it cheaper for students to study qualifications and get good jobs in areas like teaching, health, IT, science, engineering, and agriculture,” Tehan said.

Everyone else can sit on it and spin, we guess.

Image: Jeff Greenberg / Alice Laidlaw / Getty Images