The crossbench senator set to deliver the passage of a controversial university fee overhaul has conceded the reforms are "far from ideal".
Centre Alliance's Stirling Griff will vote for the Morrison government's higher education package despite raising serious concerns about the bill.
"This package is far from ideal. We would have preferred to vote for a package that provided universities with better long-term funding," he told parliament on Wednesday.
Senator Griff acknowledged the changes would mean humanities, law and commerce students finish university with debts of up to $50,000.
But he said the legislation would improve existing arrangements by creating about 30,000 more places for students.
In exchange for Centre Alliance's crucial support, the coalition has agreed to extra funding guaranteeing more places at South Australian universities.
Under the changes, the cost of humanities courses will skyrocket while "job-ready" qualifications like nursing and engineering are set to become cheaper.
South Australian Labor senator Marielle Smith said Senator Griff's excuse for supporting the bill was pathetic.
"If he doesn't think this is ideal, if he doesn't think this is the Australia we want to see in an ideal world, he could do something about it," she told the chamber.
"You've chosen to sell out the aspirations of young people in Australia."
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she was gobsmacked Centre Alliance had done a "dodgy deal" with the government after months of criticising the package.
"Centre Alliance had an opportunity to do something and they stuffed it," the South Australian said.
Pauline Hanson is backing the bill in exchange for a legal "academic freedom" definition some universities warn will make it harder to discipline racist and sexist academics.
Independents Jacqui Lambie and Rex Patrick will vote against it.
Senator Patrick, a former Centre Alliance member, lashed his ex-colleague.
"Senator Griff could vote against it, this bill that's far from ideal in his own words. Unfortunately Centre Alliance has sold out students," he said.
But Senator Lambie said it was unfair to solely blame Senator Griff for the coalition's bill.
She said the changes to course fees sent a message to poor children about the world.
"One where rich kids get discounts and poor kids get debts," she said.
"You want to go to university? Good. Eat noodles, get two or three jobs while the rich kids they get everything from mummy and daddy.
"I cannot see anything more un-Australian to be honest, it makes me feel really sick that it's come to this."
Meanwhile, the government will spend $1 billion on university research as the sector grapples with massive shortfalls from the lack of international students.
"We want the university sector through its research to be one of the drivers of our economic recovery," Education Minister Dan Tehan said.
Australian Associated Press