17 Jun 2017

$90k debt will lock out poorer students - NZUSA

9:30 am on 17 June 2017

Tertiary students are calling for more government funding for students after a study found the average loan debt of a medical student has hit $90,000.

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The average loan debt of a medical student now sits at $90,000. Photo: 123rf

The University of Auckland found loan debts for medical students have gone up by $20,000 in the past few years and now sits at $90,000.

New Zealand Union of Students' Associations' president Jonathan Gee said that was too much.

High medical fees were locking poorer students out of the degree and threatening diversity in the medical field.

"Imagine when [poorer students] see $90,000 for a medical degree.

"That's going to see a lot of them write off medicine - which is really unfortunate because we need more doctors from different backgrounds to support those communities and their unique health needs."

He said tertiary education was underfunded, especially for students who needed living costs, which made up about a third the national student loan balance.

Mr Gee also wanted the government to look into a review about how loan debt is impacting on students.

Minister of Tertiary, Skills and Employment Paul Goldsmith said the government already paid about 80 percent of the cost for tertiary study, and this year's budget also included increases to supplements for students.

Mr Goldsmith said high wages graduates earn balances out what they had to pay in their degree, so high fees wouldn't necessarily stop poorer students considering it as a career path.

"We see that most of the students pay off their debt relatively quickly because they have very high incomes when they graduate from medical school, so it's absolutely appropriate that they make a contribution."

Medical students paid back loans faster than the average, he said.

Mr Goldsmith said the government wasn't considering a review on the impact of loan debt on students, but did constantly review its loan scheme.

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