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Step Up Scholarships Welcomed By NZDA

MEDIA RELEASE 14 AUGUST 2003


Step Up Scholarships Welcomed By NZDA


The New Zealand Dental Association welcomes the Government’s initiative to award a number of tertiary scholarships in health.

“We believe that this move will encourage a more diverse group of students to study Dentistry, and will help to decrease the overall debt of dental graduates,” says New Zealand Dental Association President Steve Simmons.

$15.9 million has been committed to the Step Up Scholarships over the next four years, with around 500 to be given out in 2004 to students from low income backgrounds.

“With dental students having to pay around $9000 annually in fees, this will certainly open the door for those who otherwise couldn’t afford to study Dentistry. At the moment the fees are the highest of any discipline in the country,” says Dr Simmons

The percentage of Dentistry graduates with student debt greater than $50 000 doubled in the late 1990’s. 79% of those who graduated in 1998 owed more than $80 000.

“Many Dentistry graduates express concern about their ability to make in-roads into their debt, especially if they remain in New Zealand. Consequently, dentists are looking overseas in order to reduce debt, and may have little incentive to return to New Zealand” says Dr Simmons. “They feel they have been unfairly treated and their future curtailed by huge levels of debt.”

Students who take the Step Up Scholarship must agree to remain in NZ for four years or for the equivalent of the length of their study once they have finished, with a year’s flexibility to allow for an OE.

“We have significant workforce gaps, particularly in provincial New Zealand, and with just 54% of new dentistry graduates [at 3-5 years after graduation] staying in the country, the scholarship system is one that may help prevent the dentistry brain drain,” says Dr Simmons.

ENDS

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