FEES for creative courses at TAFE could increase from $3000 a year to as much as $26,000 under the O'Farrell government's education budget cuts.
Executive director of the National Association of the Visual Arts Tamara Winikoff warned the cost of a two-year fine arts diploma in Victoria ranged from $13,000 to $26,000 after the state's government cut subsidies.
Executive director of Information and Cultural Exchange John Kirkman said he could see both sides of the argument for the funding changes.
His organisation has a broad scope to promote cultural industries in western Sydney.
"I think it is really critical there is government and private sector investment in the cultural sector, just as there is in sport and science and economic sectors," he said.
"Creative industries are the heart and soul of a nation and a major employer."
Mr Kirkman said it was important there was "rigorous analysis" of government investment and arts students should not expect cheap training.
But he said there needed to be access to creative courses for students who could not afford full fees.
"Otherwise art becomes a thing for the elite only," he said.
Mr Kirkman said the TAFE changes coupled with the University of Western Sydney's decision to drop arts courses meant residents would need to travel to Sydney to study creative courses.
■ In The Hills there were 4523 people employed in the arts;
■ Nationally, the arts contributed $31 billion, or 2.8 per cent, to gross domestic product in 2007-08;
■ That was more than agriculture and forestry, communication services, electricity, gas and water and accommodation, cafes and restaurants;
■ Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said it was not practicable to fund courses that did not fill the skills shortage.