Campuses closed, graduation rates unknown


GRADUATION rates at the individual campuses of privately operated training colleges are not being monitored by the federal government despite billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money paid out to the college operators.

The cost of VET FEE-HELP courses being offered by private education providers soared to $1.6 billion nationally last year with taxpayers footing the bill for loans to students to pay for vocational college courses.

Most of this money is unlikely to ever be repaid since graduation rates at the private colleges are extremely low and some colleges have ceased operations recently after coming under scrutiny by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over the marketing of VET FEE-HELP courses, marketed as “study now, pay later” courses, to low-income students with little chance of completing courses.

Evocca College, a registered training organisation (RTO) with a campus in Frankston, announced last week it will close 17 of its 44 campuses across Australia and sack 220 of its 770 staff across the country.

Evocca’s Frankston college will remain open but the company refuses to confirm graduation rates at the campus.

“It’s Evocca’s policy not to disclose statistics relating to specific campuses,” Evocca spokeswoman Suzanne Ross said late last year (‘Unanswered questions on Evocca graduation rates’, The News 2/11/15).

The federal Department of Education has now advised The News it “does not collect student completion data by campus”.

“Course completion data is reported to the Department at the provider level and not at campus level,” a statement said. “Therefore the department is unable to provide course completion data at the campus level.”

The Department and Gemma Sandlant, a media adviser to Liberal Vocational Education Minister Scott Ryan, refused to provide a spokesperson name for the emailed statement.

“It’s a response from the department, so it can be attributed to the department,” Ms Sandlant said.

Evocca has received more than $400 million in VET-FEE HELP funding nationally. Department of Education figures reveal 32.9 per cent of VET-FEE HELP students at Evocca in 2011 had graduated by 2014 and 22.4 per cent of students who signed up in 2012 had finished their course.

The Department of Education advised The News there were 447 students enrolled at Evocca’s Frankston campus in 2014 despite being unable to confirm graduation rates there.

Evocca College CEO Craig White admitted the company is closing campuses and firing staff due to changes to eligibility criteria imposed by the federal government in January for VET FEE-HELP loans to students.

“Fewer students will now be able to qualify to enter Diploma-level courses at all training organisations under new rules including more stringent language, literacy and numeracy testing requirements. In addition, VET FEE-HELP has been capped to 2015 levels, restricting the growth of all providers, both public and private,” he said in a statement last week.

“A workforce reduction is always the last resort and Evocca College has taken every possible step to minimise the impact of the changing operating environment on our staff.”

The VET FEE-HELP system was introduced by the former federal Labor government in 2009. Labor announced  last week it will order a full audit of the vocational college sector if it wins government at this year’s federal election.

First published in the Mornington News – 22 March 2016


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