Supporting TAFE students during the cost-of-living crisis – there is more we can do

June 2023

We need to support our students through the cost-of-living crisis in whatever way we can – that includes embracing modern technologies – Peter Nikoletatos, TechnologyOne Industry General Manager and Adjunct Professor.

Every story in the news currently seems to be about the cost-of-living crisis and its flow-on effect: steep and frequent rental increases, interest rate rises, cost of food and bills going up. It feels like a never ending, and there’s one cohort who might be feeling it the most.

Imagine this; you are fresh out of high school and living in a remote area of Australia. The course you want to take is only available in another town or closest city. Your only option is to move away from the comfort and security of your family and friends. Now, you’re living on your own and while your TAFE course itself might be fee-free, you watch as the price of food, rent, petrol, clothes, all your basic necessities continue to rise. You feel helpless as you try to balance work – to earn money and provide for yourself – and study – so you can achieve your goals and dreams. This is the reality for many TAFE students.

With Australia ranking at number 11 out of 69 of the most expensive places to live and the inflation rate reaching 7.8 per cent by the end of December 2022, students are often faced with having to prioritise other costs over food and, even, medication.

This is worrying, to say the least; so how can TAFEs go about fixing this – particularly when they are under inflationary and staffing pressure themselves?

When we consider the effect of the cost-of-living crisis on student retention – and what that means for TAFE’s revenue – modernising the way TAFEs communicate and interact with their students is key. It allows institutions to spot early warning signs before struggling students risk walking away from their studies –

Progressive organisations recognise that digital transformation is the key to solving these challenges. Smart solutions better support the administrative and pastoral needs of TAFEs and their students. TechnologyOne’s OneEducation Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, for example, provides education leaders with real-time, holistic data-driven insights. We know that investing in smart technology and analysing the right timely data can be transformative in helping TAFEs identify and intervene when students are struggling – financially and emotionally – and ultimately helping them stay the course.

Predicting student attrition requires making sense of multiple data sources – how many terms is the student enrolled for, have they transferred to another course, have they been given a warning for failing grades, have they sought support services, are they enrolled fully online?

But in most cases, that data isn’t connected across student-related information, such as academic performance, finance, or health services. Those gaps can limit a TAFE’s ability to spot patterns or risky behaviors that, if caught early, could change the trajectory for that student.

TechnologyOne is Australia’s leading software provider in higher education, with its OneEducation SaaS solution being used by two out of every three Australian TAFEs. Since partnering with our first education customers in 1990, we have listened to the needs of the vocational sector and come up with solutions to complex problems, so we can make our customers’ and their students’ and staff’s lives simple.

We know the last few years have had a profound impact on the vocational sector, but innovation often thrives under pressure, and now is the time for tertiary institutions to be agile and embrace smart new technologies to gain an edge but also to help students going through unprecedented changes and challenges.

I am passionate about working closely with educators and tertiary institutions, learning what they need to optimise their work and what drives them. Their focus is on their students’ best interests and providing our younger generations with the opportunities they need to succeed and build a stronger Australia for the future, benefits all.