Tertiary staff fear deregulation and higher interest on HELP loan debts may deter people from university study.
University of Western Sydney vice-chancellor Barney Glover said the university would consult students to better understand the federal budget's impact on the affordability of degrees.
He said deregulation would allow higher education providers to set tuition fees, and estimates students would pay about 50 per cent of the total cost of their qualification.
"UWS is particularly concerned that this will place additional financial burdens on students, and it will be important to determine if this acts as a deterrent to university study," he said.
"This could have further implications for national productivity and regional development at a time when Australia and western Sydney face considerable economic and labour market challenges."
University of NSW senior lecturer Gary Carsley was the first in his family to attend university thanks to the policies of former prime minister Gough Whitlam, about whom he has just curated an art exhibition in Blacktown.
"For the first time since 1972 real inequalities will be emerging in our higher education system," he said.
"Universities like UWS will begin to be starved of funding simply because the larger capital-rich universities are in the eastern suburbs rather than in the west."
Mt Druitt University Hub's academic adviser Remy Low said higher course costs and the additional 6 per cent interest on student fee loans would contribute to students' debt worries.