Students were in tears yesterday when they enrolled for TAFE and found the cost of many courses had more than trebled - even surpassing the cost of similar courses at university.
There are concerns the new costs will discourage many from vocational education, fuelling shortages in key areas such as child care and technical roles in the resources sector.
The rise, which varies according to course, was signalled last year but many students at the Central Institute of Technology did not realise the full extent of the increase until yesterday's enrolments.
Shadow training minister Fran Logan accused the State Government of slugging students to help cover the cost of its overspending.
"TAFE is the lifeblood of our skills base and the service sector, and the State Government is creating a disincentive to these careers," he said.
Several CIT photography students were shocked to find their fees had more than trebled from $1200 a semester last year to $4350 a semester this year. The amount is likely to jump to $6500 by 2017.
Photography student Kyra Hepton said she cried when told of the new fees and initially left without re-enrolling. She returned later after reluctantly accepting a student loan with a 20 per cent administration fee.
At least one of her classmates did not re-enrol because of the fee increase.
"I'm only 19 and I'm going to graduate in a year with a $9000 debt - that's not a good feeling," Ms Hepton said.
Another classmate, Genevieve Leonard, 19, reluctantly borrowed from her parents, saying she was in "a state of shock" at the fee increase.
"The Government complains about people being on Centrelink, but they make it so hard for people to study," she said.
Her stepmother Deborah Leonard said it did not make sense that university had become the cheaper option in some cases.
Genevieve's annual $8700 CIT fee surpasses the $6000 in annual fees for her siblings' bachelor degrees.
"The two at the University of WA are paying $3000 less each year for a degree than the one doing vocational education," she said.
Photography student Jaimee Wimbridge opted for a loan because she did not earn enough through her part-time job, which she juggled with her full-time studies.
"For someone who literally has $2 in the bank after paying board, this is hard," she said.
Training Minister Kim Hames said the 2014 fees represented less than 20 per cent of the true cost of delivery of each course.