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PM Presser: Med Student Fees, Blood Pressure Rise

PM Presser – Med Students’ Fees, Blood Pressure To Rise


  • Scoop Audio: Medical students’ loans will loom even larger under Government plans to loosen fee caps, Prime Minister John Key confirmed Monday.

Key echoed Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce’s comments Sunday in an appearance on TVNZ’s Q+A programme, where Joyce suggested lifting the cap on tuition fees for high-cost courses such as medicine and aviation.

Under the current fee maxima rules tertiary institutions must seek permission from the Tertiary Education Commission to raise course fees by more than five percent a year, but Joyce told host Guyon Espiner he believed the maxima was creating distortions in the market

“There will be the potential for some of the more expensive courses to increase in cost, yeah, but we're not talking a dramatic change.

“What we are going to do once we've made some initial steps is actually go and have a really good look at university course pricing and tertiary institution pricing, because they were last looked at in the mid-90s and some of them are getting highly distortionary relative to the actual cost of providing the course,” Joyce said.

Key backed Joyce’s comments at his Monday press conference, but was tight-lipped on the details.

There was no question there would be some changes to the fee maxima scheme “but there won’t be carte blanche”.

“You have to acknowledge that those fees that come with a large pricetag also come with a large paycheck and the reality is that they’re expensive courses to run.

“No one’s underestimating the cost of becoming a doctor, but the rewards on a number of fronts are quite great,” he said.

A 2008 study in the New Zealand Medical Journal found the average graduating student loan of domestic medical students totalled $63,880.

One-third reported a graduating loan of over $75,000 while 13 percent had debts of over $90,000.

The study found nearly three quarters of students said their loan would have no effect on their career choices, but students who did not graduate with a student loan were nearly twice as likely to seek work in rural communities.

Key said he did not think bigger fee rises would restrict the number of people entering those professions as the Government had programmes to bond doctors and nurses to understaffed rural areas.

“I don’t think you’re making it more difficult; you’re just making it slightly more expensive.

“If doctors feel like that they’ll just bond themselves voluntarily and have their student loan written off by the government,” he said.

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