What the HECS?

3 April, 2024

Hello, Russell Broadbent here – your federal independent member for Monash.

Yesterday I read that Australia’s total HECS debt is $78 billion! Yes, 78 billion dollars! Talk about a cash cow for the government.

As if life isn’t already challenging enough for university students, especially young people juggling work, skyrocketing rentals and other responsibilities.

No – these people, who are studying to help make a better Australia also have their ever-increasing HECS debts lumped with yearly indexation.

Adding further insult to injury, none of the repayments made throughout the year are taken into account at the time the student’s loan is indexed.

And the indexation rate almost doubled from an average of 4% over the past few years to 7.1% in 2023-24!

In doing this, the debt owed to the government increased a whopping $5.5 billion dollars!

In 2023-24, a person with a HELP debt will usually be required to make a repayment if their yearly income is above $51,550. That’s not a lot of money these days – it’s what a supermarket checkout operator earns!

It’s barely enough money to live on, let alone have indexed debt taken out. No wonder students are living off two-minute noodles and tinned tuna!

It’s our precious teachers and nurses who carry the biggest repayment burden of any group.

And according to ATO statistics, it’s women who hold the majority of student debt in Australia. So, these HECS and HELP debts are in fact further entrenching women’s economic disadvantage in Australia.

So why is it that women have a heavier debt burden?

More women undertake university education, but on average, men can expect to earn higher incomes after graduation than women.

This is a maths equation that simply doesn’t add up!

But there’s another blow lurking for women:

Because they bring life to the next generation and take the most time out of the workforce raising children, it means they spend much longer repaying their debt, which flows on financially to reduce their superannuation nest egg.

It’s a vicious cycle.

We should be investing in our future doctors, teachers, lawyers, and scientists – people whom we will all rely upon in years to come.

Indexation to debt which is incurred from tertiary education is unfair and unjust.

We do a lot of talking in this place about equity and inclusion and reducing the gender pay gap. So if we’re serious about this, a good start might be to remove HECS indexation – or cap it.

We must do better.

At the very least, let’s talk about it.

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