The 25 per cent "fee" charged on some higher-education student loans is a "tax on university choice", according to Conservative Party leader Senator Cory Bernardi, who moved an amendment to abolish it.
Senator Bernardi's proposed amendment to student loans now won't be considered until August at the earliest after tax and national security legislation delayed debate in the Senate.
The Conservative Party's amendment drew attention to the high fees charged on student loans and the inconsistent way they apply.
Students borrowing to study with private higher education providers or doing postgraduate and research courses, for which there is no Commonwealth support, have to pay a 25 per cent "fee" on top of their loan.
The fee is rolled into loan repayments that are triggered when the student's post-education income hits a certain level.
By contrast, public university students are better off, with no fee charged on their HECS-HELP loans - nor on loans for overseas-HELP and to pay student services fees .
Supporting his amendment, Senator Bernardi said the fee was an issue of equity that mainly hit students at private universities.
"It's a tax on university choice. If you decide you don't want to go into the public university system you are being penalised. It's a modest amount of money for the government to raise while it's restricting access to university," he said.
The Australian Financial Review claims that Senator Bernardi may not be widely known for his views on higher education and the question of the loan fee unites him with some unlikely partners.
The education officer of the National Union of Students, Con Karavias, described loan fees as "absurd and nonsensical" and "another way of making education less and less affordable".
And the education think tank the Grattan Institute said it could see no defensible reason why some groups were being singled out.
Senator Bernardi said his interest in higher education had been sparked by his own children reaching university age.
To see what Senator Bernardi had to say about public universities in the past, watch below.
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