Social mobility in Australia has long been associated with obtaining a university degree.

For aspirational people from less wealthy families, like many in my own constituency of Fowler, this route to prosperity which begins with their own hard work and determination is greatly assisted by HECS-HELP loans.

My mother chose for our family to be resettled as refugees in Australia back in the 1970s because she was told that it had ‘the best education system in the world’.

I’m grateful for what higher education has provided me and my sisters. But the rise in cost of living and rise in inflation has impacted our young people studying today.

I asked the government to revert the interest to 3.9 per cent in 2022, and last June, while speaking on the Trade Support Loan Bill, I also asked them to freeze it as the problem was getting worse due to their inaction.

That’s why I cautiously welcome the news that Labor are finally addressing this issue, and I look forward to scrutinising their plans to reduce the indexation moving forward. But this can’t be the limit of the reforms needed in this vital area for aspiring Australians.

The Morrison government arbitrarily doubled the cost of Arts degrees in what appeared to be a clumsy attempt to discourage students from studying certain types of Liberal Arts that are associated with the culture wars.

The effect of this has been that Arts students since 2021 have racked up twice the debt, and then had a huge indexation rate applied to that debt.

Do we really want to produce a generation of Australians with no knowledge of English Literature, History, or Philosophy? How about Politics, or Economics?

It may well suit the Labor and Liberal governments to have fewer university graduates able to assess their political and economic approaches: the cost of living is the single most important factor affecting the ability of all Australians to make ends meet. Crippling repayments on HECS-HELP debt makes the essentials even less affordable.

Simply reducing the indexation measure to whichever is the lower out of the Consumer Price Index and the Wage Price Index is only an immediate balm to the current rise in the cost of living.

For students and graduates there are other measures that could and should be adopted to ensure that those able to pursue higher education to raise their standard of living can do

I urge the government to consider further relief for students of low socio-economic backgrounds, through working closely with higher education institutions to administer scholarship programs that may alleviate financial hardship. During my conversations with young students of Fowler, they have shared the struggle of having to dash to their part time jobs and prioritising their education, particularly with the cost of living crisis.

Dai Le is the independent MP for Fowler

(This appeared in Daily Telegraph, Sydney)