Fee fi fo fum. Opposing full-fee students is dumb
Buying your place in medical school. It evokes images of lazy rich kids displacing slaving battlers out of the noble caring profession of medicine to keep elite societal structures intact. The truth is actually the complete opposite.
That’s what makes last week’s attack on full-fee paying places by Australia’s Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) so surprising. Apparently arranging a loan to study generates inequities of some sort. Being such a long-held view, it’s probably time for a re-think.
Australia can be proud of its blended public and private service provision. We do it better than any other nation. Roughly half of us take out private health cover and over a third attend non-state schools.
In yesterday’s fee-paying fatwa, published on the Medical Observer, AMSA opposed private students because medicine is chronically and severely under funded. That doesn’t even compute. One would have thought that each $125,000 of new money from fee-payers would have eased this concern for universities.
They claim private students simply cannot afford to foot the bill, but surely that is a personal decision, not one for AMSA. Last, AMSA fears paying the full fee, rather that the publicly subsidised fee, would deter disadvantaged students. But student loans are granted on future earning capacity and ability to repay, not on whether you arrived as a refugee or have English as a third language.
Truth is, fee-paying places help the slaving battlers displace the rich lazy kids. Perhaps that is what makes the medical students nervous. Fee-payers are typically passionate, demanding and utterly committed. They are worthy additions to the cohort.
That is why we need to move away from the notion that a medical place exists only if government funds it, to where government funds a proportion and the remainder are left to the market. The current workforce crisis is ample evidence that exclusively government-funded places got us into the severe shortages we are now correcting.
If Australians who meet university entry criteria want to pay their way, let them. After all, each fee-payer is one less person whose uni bills are paid by Aussie tax-payers, most who will never get their kids to uni. Labor want every single place government funded because they are petrified by the ignorant stereotype of trust babies rolling through medicine for no better reason than they can. With medicine increasingly not viewed as an ‘easy money’ degree, such a stereotype is correspondingly rare.
By definition, those with top marks will take the ‘free place’ paid for by you and me. Beyond that number, the question is should those who ‘just miss out’ on a Commonwealth supported place have an alternative pathway? If they are keen enough to seek out a bank loan, scholarship or grandma’s inheritance, I say, why the bloody hell not? If you really want that career, then odds are you are passionate and committed. More of you I say.
For those opposed to financing a fee-paying place, there are many other avenues. They include applying to a medical school with a lower cut-off, repeating at school, re-sitting your medicine entry exams, do a year in another course then switch, or re-apply as a post-graduate.
In an era of strict medical school entry requirements, not to mention the highly competitive nature of the admissions process, I am not even remotely concerned about full-fee paying students ‘buying’ their way in to medicine. The argument is a furphy.
The hypocrisy by AMSA here is that they are happy to see overseas students pay for and study non-Commonwealth supported medical places, fight for their internship places which ultimately leads to a long and prosperous medical career in Australia – yet in the same breath, they tell Aussies also wanting to access private places to study something else.
The issue of fee-paying places is complex. It is a shame that we get nothing more nuanced than a simple ‘no’ from the political elite of the medical students.
Every dogma has its day, and it’s probably time Australia’s medical student body overcame their resistance to full-fee paying places in our medical schools.
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