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Thousands sign petition to fix 'HECS debt crisis'

Updated: May 7

A petition to the federal government to make HECS debt “easier to pay off” has received more than 280,000 signatures.



University students face large HECS debts which continue to grow with inflation. RMIT, Melbourne. Photo: Joanna Beard 2024

Dr Monique Ryan, an Independent MP for Kooyong has used the petition to call on the Education Minister to fix the “unfair” HECS system.


“The government got more money last year from our HECS debts than it did from its main fossil fuel tax,” Dr Ryan said in the online petition.


“We should celebrate students going to university, not straddle them with a lifetime of debt.”


“The government is considering changes as we speak. We need to see young people stand up and demand change.”


HECS debt is a government program that allows students to defer paying their higher education fees until they earn over $51,550 a year.


While students have largely believed their HECS debt is “interest-free”, it’s indexed, increasing yearly to match inflation.


This means many people find their HECS debt growing faster than they’re able to pay it off, even when working full-time.


RMIT Advertising student, Liam Cooper says he finds the current HECS system “daunting”.


“The knowledge that I may never be able to pay back the debt, or will struggle to, makes me concerned for the impact it will have on my future,” he told The Swanston Gazette.


“I feel that indexation should either be removed or capped at a certain amount, though ideally, the universities themselves would lower the cost of attending.”


The Australian Universities Accord made 47 recommendations to the government after a recent review of Australia’s tertiary systems.


The recommendations include a “fairer and simpler” repayment system, income support for disadvantaged students, and financial support for unpaid work placement.


Students should closely watch the May 14 Federal Budget, as it’s expected that HECS relief and cost-of-living reforms for young people will be among the promises made.



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