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Medical student debt study highlights need for conversation

Medical student debt study highlights need for national conversation

Medical student debt study highlights need for national conversation

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) is calling for a national conversation about student debt in light of a recent study about rising loans for medical students.

A recent University of Auckland study has found that medical students are carrying higher levels of student loan debt year on year; and that this could impact their choice to enter careers that are more highly paid over areas of high need.

‘When graduates might be choosing to enter careers that are more highly paid over areas of high need, it shows how rising student debt creates real implications on society as a whole’, says National President Jonathan Gee.

The findings follow a recent study by NZUSA which assessed the implications of student loan debt on a graduates’ future.

The Income and Expenditure Report 2017 found that 78% of students feel that their debt will have a significant impact on their ability to save for their retirement. It also found that repayment times were increasing, with significant inequalities between repayment times for men and women, and Pākeha compared with Māori and Pasifika.

‘We must also consider those who might be locked out from even considering a career in medicine due to high costs. Large student loan debt for qualifications such as medicine create a poverty of opportunity for many of our poorest families’, Gee said.

Gee says that rising student debt requires immediate action by the Government. The first step would be by addressing the rising cost of living for students. Living costs make up a third of the national student loan balance.

‘An immediate step to lessen the burden of student loan debt is to increase access to the Student Allowance, which currently only 33% of students have access to.’

Gee says that, more importantly, a national conversation about student debt needs to take place in order to combat inequality.

‘Loan debt is not just a student issue. Tertiary education is a public good and we owe it to future generations to have a national conversation about student debt and its impact on society.’

NZUSA is the national voice of students in tertiary education. The organisation is governed by students’ associations from universities and polytechnics around the country.


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