HELP changes may be costly for future women lawyers

Research by Professor Bruce Chapman suggests richer graduates would pay about $30,000 less for their degrees under proposed changes to the HELP scheme, and “[w]omen who take time off work to have children would be among the hardest hit.” Responding to this criticism, Education Minister Christopher Pyne observed that “women are well-represented amongst the teaching and nursing students. They will not be able to earn the high incomes that say dentists or lawyers will earn, and vice chancellors in framing their fees, their fee structure, will take that into account.” In fact, women are well-represented amongst law students, too: “61.4% of all law graduates are female.” However, the most recent Graduate Careers Australia report shows that female law graduates immediately face a gender pay gap, and they are far more likely to leave the profession within 10 years. As a result, if above-inflation interest is applied to HELP debts, women may pay significantly more for their law degrees than men. However, the proposed changes must first be passed by the Senate.