The Curtin Student Guild has made a submission to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee in support of the Education and Other Legislation Amendment (Abolishing Indexation and Raising Repayment Income for Education and Training Loans Bill 2022.)
The bill aims to remove indexation for the next two years, lowering it to the current RBA cash rate.
The submission also calls for the HECS-HELP loan repayment threshold to be increased from $48,000 to the median wage, $62,000.
HECS-HELP is a government loan system helping higher education students with their university and tuition fees.
Former students begin paying their loans through a taxation system once they earn above the minimum threshold.
Curtin Guild believes the bill will have ‘positive impacts on the education system’ providing former university students with relief after being ‘burdened by unmanageable accumulating debt.’
The Guild has stood in solidarity with the National Union of Students (NUS) who stood in front of the Senate last month appealing to ‘freeze’ loans whilst inflation remains ‘elevated.’
NUS President Bailey Riley says the union wanted to ensure the government was held accountable and ‘not simply increase student debt repayments.’
Riley believes the current HECS-HELP loan repayment threshold of $48,000 is ‘ridiculously low.’
“That’s only $4,000 more than the minimum wage, that’s not much,” she says.
“$62,000, the median wage, is a much more realistic standard … it’s also where about most university students graduate and start earning an income.”
The NUS reported that in 2021-22 there were 3 million Australians with an outstanding HECS-HELP debt totalling more than $74.3 billion, a 191 per cent increase since 2011-12.
In 2021-22, 72 per cent of students with HECS-HELP loans owed the government $10,000 compared to only 47.51 per cent in 2005-06.
Curtin Guild believes if the Australian government is ‘truly committed’ in improving tertiary education, the issue of student debt ‘must be seriously addressed.’
‘It is contradictory for the government to expect students to want to up-skill in tertiary education institutions and succeed academically while simultaneously burdening them with crippling levels of debt,’ the submission reads.
‘The government should be working to make education more accessible and affordable, rather than creating additional financial barriers that make it harder for students to pursue their academic and career goals.’