The Australian Law Students' Association (ALSA) has taken aim at the Federal Budget for doing nothing to arrest spiraling law school enrolment numbers.
"The government's announcement of $1.2 billion over the next four years to fund growth in student enrolments ignores existing concerns about legal education funding and puts quantity ahead of quality," said ALSA president Matthew Floro.
"In a deregulated market for student places, an increase in law school enrolments will worsen education standards, staff-student ratios, and international competitiveness unless fundamental reforms are made to the outdated base funding model."
ALSA has also criticised the government for reducing the student upfront payment discount from 20 per cent to 10 per cent and reducing the voluntary repayment bonus from 10 per cent to 5 per cent. Floro said the government, not students, should increase its share of higher education funding.
ALSA has applauded the government for its $1.5 billion national mental health reform package and also for its $177.6 million commitment to assist universities to support students from low socio-economic backgrounds.
"It has been widely publicised that law students are particularly vulnerable to depression and mental health issues," Floro said. "In 2009, research published by the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Institute reported that approximately 35 per cent of law students report high or very high levels of stress, which is above the rate for the general population."
"ALSA is particularly pleased with the extra funding for headspace centres, the establishment of a National Mental Health Commission, and the development of a single national e-mental health portal."