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It's Official: Student Debt = Brain Drain

8 December, 2000.

CONTACT:
Celine Fris (AUMSA PRES) - 021 120 2836
Greg O'Grady (AUMSA VP + Pres. elect) 025 588 658
Yezdi Mistry (AUMSA, NZMSA -VP) 021 377 661


The Auckland University Medical Students' Association (AUMSA) will today present evidence to the Education and Science Select Committee which shows that student debt is forcing young doctors to leave New Zealand.

"This is the brain drain in action," said Celine Fris, AUMSA President. "Today we will be presenting data to the Select Committee which shows that medical students' indebtedness is closely linked with their intentions to leave New Zealand. The trend is especially strong for female graduates (who comprise around 55% of the class), with 45% of those with the highest debts expecting to practice overseas." The data is from a survey of current Auckland School of Medicine undergraduate students, carried out earlier this year.

The AUMSA submission focuses on the fact that medical students are graduating with an average debt of between $60,000-$69,999, which is likely to rise to more than $80,000 in the next few years. The research showed that Maori and Pacific Island graduates face the highest debt burden -- 70% of this group owe more than $60,000. This cost is likely to further worsen the already acute problems faced by potential students from lower to middle socio-economic groups in gaining access to tertiary education. In addition, high debt discriminates against female graduates, who are more likely than men to work in lower paid specialties or work part time to raise children.

Medical graduates with huge debts will be less inclined to work in fields of medicine which are paid less - such as public health, general practice, rural general practice, mental health and medical research. Only 13% of students, a staggeringly low figure, demonstrated interest in the generally lower paid GP work. "This can only aggravate already acute GP shortages in many parts of New Zealand," said Ms Fris.

"Medical graduates are now primarily motivated to reduce their large debt, and community responsibility takes a back seat. Many junior doctors are simply moving to Australia. Many of those who are staying are indicating that they will specialise and work in private practice," said Ms Fris. "This issue is no longer simply about the rights of students to an affordable education, it's about the rights of the New Zealand health patient."

"The serious nature of these issues has united all four clinical medical schools throughout New Zealand (Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington, and Christchurch). They are now acting with one united voice to highlight these problems and seek solutions, not only for themselves but for the people of New Zealand who need to access health services," said Adrian Skinner, New Zealand Medical Student Association President (NZMSA).

AUMSA's recommendations to the Select Committee include decreasing the cost of tertiary education, increasing the proportion of students eligible for the student allowance, providing tax incentives for debt repayment, investigating the level and consequences of medical student debt, and implementing a job-matching scheme to facilitate the easy transition of medical students into the New Zealand health workforce.

END.


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