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Medical student fee increases contradict relief

Medical student fee increases contradict student debt relief

Medical students face further fee increases with the announcement of the fee setting for 2007 by the University of Otago Council. Medical student fees will increase by 2.5% from $10,517 to $10,780.

“The University is off-setting the effort to reduce student debt by its continual increase of medical fees.” said New Zealand Medical Students’ Association President Dr Xaviour Walker.

Student debt was the number one election issue in 2005, with the Labour Government introducing interest free student loans in April this year to address the $8.7 billion student debt crisis. The University is constrained to only increase fees up to 5% per year under the current fee maxima scheme, which is failing to keep a cap on fees with rising university costs.

“It makes no sense to me that the country spends millions of dollars trying to reduce student debt, yet the University has a clear objective to maximize student revenue because of the current financial pressure.

“While we realise that there is an under-funding of medical education, this cost should not be transferred to medical students,” said Dr. Walker

Today’s announcements will mean medical students will have to pay an extra $1300 more for their degree than this year’s graduates.

Recent published studies in the New Zealand Medical Journal showed the total average medical student debt at graduation was $65,206. The effect of debt is far greater on Maori than Pakeha, with the average debt for Maori graduates being $81,250.

“We must not allow the University to keep putting up their fees each year without any resistance.

“In the last 3 years we have seen medical student fees unacceptably increase by $1600, from $9180 in 2003 to $10,716,” said Dr. Walker.

Studies have showed that medical student debt has had a dramatic effect on the health workforce. Two thirds of graduates intended to leave New Zealand within three years of graduation, consequently there are shortages in many specialties and especially in general practice.

“We must protect our future workforce by providing affordable medical education, as many junior doctors are forced to look to other ways to pay off their huge debt.”

- ENDS -

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