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Useful student loan ‘cut’, more surgery required

Media Release - 18 September 2008 - For Immediate Use

A useful student loan ‘cut’, but more surgery required

Auckland students believe National’s policy of wiping some medical students’ loans is a promising step in the right direction, however caution that the best way forward is to stop these loans and debt from accumulating in the first place.

National released a voluntary health bonding policy today involving student loan wipe-offs for doctors and nurses who work in hard-to-staff areas.

“We welcome National’s acknowledgement that student debt is a huge burden on students, their families, and the country. Medical students have very high workloads, pay amongst the highest fees in the country, and barely have any time to work to support themselves,” says AUSA President David Do.

The 2005 New Zealand Union of Students Associations’ study ‘Doctors and Debt:
The Effect of Student Debt on New Zealand Doctors,’ found that only 20% of
students received an allowance for the full six years of their MBChB study.

“Given that many can’t get a student allowance because of parental means testing up to 25, and are thus forced to borrow to live, it’s no wonder they graduate with appallingly high debt and shun lower paid but valued health fields.”

Two thirds of respondents in the study also stated they would consider leaving New Zealand within three years of graduating. The level of debt impacts on the professions medical graduates enter. Financially less-rewarding areas like general practice and rural practice tend to miss out, contributing to sector-wide shortages of skilled health workers.

“This is the perfect illustration of why students need to be properly supported while they are studying. Surely the concept of being properly supported while they’re studying in a valuable profession for New Zealand’s future would very attractive and encourage our young graduates to stay in New Zealand,” says Do.

AUSA looks forward to National’s tertiary education policy addressing the problem of student debt head-on through a universal student allowance.


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