Australians love higher education… so long as someone else pays for it.

Students believe a well-educated workforce is vital to our country’s future and the community should pay for it. And they’re right.

The government argues university is a first class ticket to success, the kind of investment individuals should make for themselves. That’s true, too.

Some students see tertiary education purely as an opportunity for personal gain; they’re after that ticket to success… while some study in order to serve their communities better; no-one ever made the big bucks from a degree in teaching, nursing or social justice.

Most degrees are probably somewhere in the middle, a mix of private advancement and public benefit.

So why not give the most to those who give back the most?

Let’s educate our most selfless professionals for free; it’s the least we can do for people who do so much for us. Let’s ask those seeking education for purely personal ambitions to pay for their own studies; after all, it’s a smart investment. And let’s provide loans for those who will one day enjoy a lucrative career and add real value to our communities; their education is a joint venture we should all invest in.

Education benefits the individual AND the nation; it’s just a matter of degrees. But the constant politicisation of higher education makes enemies of those who should be co-venturers in an investment that benefits everyone.

By squabbling over who pays we lose sight of the greatest cost of all: the price we pay for an uneducated, undeveloped population.

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Written by Jason Clarke

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Celebrated author, adventurer, gold medal Olympian and popular TV chef; Jason is none of these things. He is, however, one of the most sought-after creative minds in the country. As founder of Minds at Work, he’s helped people ‘think again’ since the end of the last century, working with clients across Australia in virtually every industry and government sector on issues ranging from creativity and trouble shooting to culture change and leadership.