Humanities degree vs STEM degree. Is there a gender-bias in costs?

Humanities degree
STEM degree
Is there a gender-bias in costs?

Humanities and communications students studying at a university are about to face much higher HECS costs at the end of their degree, assuming they are unable to pay upfront. There will be a 113% increase in fees for these degrees while there will be a 62% decrease in fees for agricultural and maths students and a 20% reduction for science and engineering students. Those degrees where fees have been reduced have a much higher male participation rate than females.

Is there an ingrained bias in reducing fees in the degrees dominated by males students? Students achieve far better results if they choose a degree which will provide them with a career path which interests them, and they are more likely to succeed both academically and professionally if they choose a pathway which is not influenced by a financial incentive.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) indicate that many more women than men complete humanities and communications degrees. This inevitably leads to the conclusion that they will take far longer to pay off their HECS debt, particularly if their career is interrupted by having a family. Statistically female undergraduates face a 5.1 % pay gap that increases to 14.4% at graduate coursework level.

There is a large question mark over whether young women form low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds would ever choose to start their working lives with a $50K debt.

More interesting figures concern the stimulus packages being offer to the construction industry ($1bn) and defence industry ($270bn): who are the recipients of this largesse? In the main they are male graduates.

On the other hand, graduates of nursing and teaching degrees are among the lowest paid professions. Both these caring professions are constantly under attack for attempting to increase their salaries to become more gender equal. While they are both essential services, particularly relevant during this pandemic, the salaries they earn do not reflect the critical importance of their jobs on the front line.

COVID-19 is already impacting on the learning pathways of students, with jobs a victim of this pandemic. Students may well inherit a generation of debt…and women will be the big losers in this future forecast.

Annie Young

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