(Transcript from World News Radio)
A set of proposals recommending a federal government crackdown on unpaid tertiary student debt are receiving a mixed response.
The Grattan Institute says the government should collect unpaid debts from students who die rather than write the debt off.
It’s also recommending efforts to seek minimum annual repayments from students who relocate overseas.
Greg Dyett reports
“One survey suggests that about 10 per cent of students work overseas within three years of finishing their degree but it also says that most of these people eventually return. Mostly this is delayed repayment rather than non repayment but there is a core maybe 20 per cent who don’t come back.”
Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute says Australians living overseas should be made to repay their student debts, especially when 20 per cent never return.
He says more than a billion dollars a year in student loans is now classified by the government as doubtful debt – meaning the government thinks it’s unlikley to be recouped.
Under Australia’s Higher Education Loan Program, students are not required to start re-paying until they earn just over $51,000 or more per year.
Andrew Norton says other countries that adopted similar funding arrangements insist on repayments from students who decide to live overseas.
“The other countries that copied our HECS system like England and New Zealand, they both require people who are working overseas to repay. That’s really consistent with what the scheme was designed to do in the first place which is make sure that people contribute to the cost of their higher education, so this is just a loophole that needs to be closed.”
At Monash University in Melbourne, there’s some support for some of what Andrew Norton’s proposing.
The President of the German Club, Adam Trucano says graduates who go overseas should have to re-pay their loans.
“I think the debt should be repaid. I’m not sure how they would keep track of it but it probably should be repaid. The education costs a lot and the government does fund a lot compared to full fee places. I believe that probably, it’s probably right that the debt is paid.”
Adam Trucano doesn’t favour the other proposal which would involve the federal government insisting that where a deceased estate is worth 100-thousand dollars or more, the student debt gets repaid.
“I don’t think personal assets should be touched in the event of a death, accidental or expected. I think the personal assets are the right of that person’s particular family and I think the family has first choice or the rights to the personal assets upon the death, I don’t think the government has first choice or first pick.”
The President of the Monash Students Association, Ben Knight says recouping money from deceased estates is not the way to go.
But he says a payment requirement for Australians living overseas could be worth considering.
“I think there are definitely ways that the government can look into, you know, making efficiencies in some senses and that’s definitely a lot more positive than taking away, making individuals pay for debt after they’ve passed away.”
Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute says women who choose to have children and work part-time can reach the end of their working lives without being required to make repayments.
He says people in that category should have to repay their debt from the proceeds of their estate.
“Most of the people will actually die in sort of the normal time, in their 70s and 80s and typically we think the remaining debt will be due to women who were the second income earner in their household. So about 40 per cent of them are in household where someone earns more than a hundred thousand a year, so they’re affluent households. It’s just that this particular individual didn’t earn above $51,000 for long enough to repay.”