Uneasy: students Caitlin Woodland and Gabriel Dwyer. Photo: Meredith O'Shea
Anxiety is mounting among high school students about the cost of university education as they prepare to choose their tertiary preferences.
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has said that greater competition among higher education providers could result in lower fees.
But school students have raised concerns about the expected cost of higher education at Victorian Student Representative Council conferences held throughout the state this week.
Speaking from one conference in Fawkner, Northern College of the Arts and Technology student Natalie Elizabeth said she was worried about how students from disadvantaged backgrounds would afford university.
''I think a lot of people are going to be a lot more hesitant about going to university because of the large fees,'' she said.
Students at Princes Hill Secondary College are encouraged to study what they love after year 12. But many are worried about the large debts that could result from the federal government's proposed changes to university fees.
The students have to decide soon, with applications for undergraduate courses opening at the start of August.
Caitlin Woodland, 17, is planning to study humanitarian law at Deakin University and expects that will include some postgraduate study.
She said students who completed postgraduate qualifications already finished their courses owing substantial amounts of money. ''That is like having a small mortgage.''
If fees increase substantially, as expected for many courses, Caitlin worries she could be paying off her debt long after she graduates. ''If you have to pay back your HECS debt, how are you going to get a car or a house?'' she asked.
The government intends to deregulate course fees in 2016, allowing universities to set their own charges.
Some students were reconsidering plans to take a gap year in 2015 to beat the fee rise for a year, Caitlin said.
Fellow student Gabriel Dwyer, 17, is hoping he will qualify for a scholarship so he can study science at Melbourne University.
''If I don't get any of those, it could be quite detrimental to my education,'' he said.