OPINION: Where would I be without HECS?

LIKE many students who complete a tertiary degree, with the hope of spending money to make money in their chosen career, I am in debt to the government.

I am one of thousands of students who owe some of the total $26.3 billion of university loan debt which has developed over the 23 years the current system has been in place.

It has been estimated by the Grattan Institute's 2013 Mapping Australian Higher Education report that $6.2 billion will never be repaid.

Is this cost worth it to give the Australian people better access to higher education in a competitive world?

HECS-HELP allows students to put off their payments for their university education and to begin paying it back when they begin to earn more than the annual threshold for repayments, which is $49,095 in 2012 to 2013.

But although the federal government's Study Assist website claims "there is no real interest charged on HECS-HELP loans" a student's debt will grow with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) it is adjusted or "indexed" with.

My HECS-HELP loan began in 2008 and so far my loan has grown after being adjusted by 3.9 per cent in 2009, 1.9 per cent in 2010, 3.0 per cent in 2011 and 2.9 per cent in 2012.

The government offers a 10 per cent discount to students who can pay up front but sadly I like many did not fit into that category.

With an annual CPI index increasing my HECS-HELP debt every year the sooner I am able to pay back my loan the better but at least I will be able to afford it when the bills start coming in.

Some university students will never have the means to pay back their HECS debt, which is commonly about $20,000 for three years of study.

Other people who studied at Australian universities and now live overseas are also exempt from paying back their debt.

For a government so driven by a surplus until recently it is surprising those who live overseas and can afford to pay back their HECS debt currently don't.

I feel obligated as a taxpayer myself to do my bit and pay back the HECS-HELP debt. Without government support through the HECS-HELP system ultimately paid by the taxpayers, many people would not be where they are today.


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