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Med students concerned by possible fee increases

12 November 2004

Association Medical students concerned by possible fee increases

The New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA) is concerned that the University of Otago will follow the University of Auckland in raising fees for professional health science courses in 2005.

The University of Otago Council recently met to set course fees for 2005, but deferred setting fees for courses in Medicine, Dentistry, and Physiotherapy. The University of Auckland has recently applied for an exemption from the “fee maxima” policy, and intends to increase fees for Medicine by 10% next year. It was signaled that Otago would explore this possibility.

Any rise in the cost of medical education will worsen the already high level of medical student debt. “Medical students are consistently amongst the highest student loan borrowers, with a median debt of $70,000 at graduation in 2001,” said Jess Allen, president of the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association. “The graduates of 2001 paid $44,820 in tuition costs. If a 10% exemption were granted, students starting a degree today would pay 32% more ($59,000) for their degree.”

In 2004 the University of Otago was granted an exemption to the fees maxima, and raised fees by 8%. “Fee maxima policy aims to control student debt, but with a second exemption in two years under consideration, the maxima appears to have little relevance,” she said.

Rising debt is most alarming because published research demonstrates that it has consequences for the New Zealand medical workforce. Medical student debt not only correlates with students’ intention to leave New Zealand, but also deters graduates from choosing to train in General Practice . The New Zealand Medical Association recently found New Zealand’s General Practitioner workforce to be declining and ageing .

The NZMSA's position is that medical education must receive sufficient government funding, so that medical student debt does not increase, with consequences for New Zealand’s health. “The NZMSA recognises that medical schools operate in a system that fixes the number of students, and the amount of funding per student. Both Auckland and Otago are clearly struggling to meet costs within this system.

We believe this is further evidence that the New Zealand Government needs to increase funding of medical schools. The burden of financial shortfall should not be transferred to the future doctors of New Zealand,” Allen said.

ENDS

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