On Twitter I was challenged on the religious colleges point, that there was a difference between being eligible for FEE-HELP loans and directly receiving tuition subsidies. Having just checked the census income numbers, looking at ministers of religion and graduates of ‘religious studies’, it seems that in this case there may not be so much difference between the two.
In 2011, the year of the last census, the threshold for repayment of HELP was an annual income of about $47,000. Unfortunately that does not neatly fit with the census income categories, falling into one with the range of $800-$999 a week.
The slide below shows incomes for ministers of religion, with 47 per cent definitely earning below the threshold (the bars show the cumulative percent of ministers), with another 16 per cent in the income range including the threshold.
The results for people with degrees in ‘religious studies’ are even worse. For this group, 56 per cent earn less than threshold and another 12 per cent have an income in the the threshold’s income range.
By contrast, for graduates generally 34 per cent are clearly below the threshold and another 12 per cent have an income in the threshold range.
There are many people who are below the threshold in a given year who will still repay eventually, as they are temporarily out of the workforce or working part-time. But religious vocations are often characterised by the religiously-motivated forgoing of material luxury, and also payment-in-kind by the church, such as free or heavily subsidised accommodation. These factors are likely to put some ministers of religion below the threshold for their careers, despite working full-time.
This means that the effective costs of extending tuition subsidies to religious colleges is likely to be less than what I estimated yesterday, as some of the tuition subsidies will just replace debt that will never be repaid anyway.