Student debt rising

The average higher education (HELP) student debt stood at $23,280 in the year to June 2020, compared with $14,401 in 2011.

Student debt has been rising steadily and so has the time needed to pay it off, 9.3 years from 7.3 years in 2005.

There are 2.85 million HELP debtors.

An analysis of Higher Education Loan Program debt by Federal Parliament’s Parliamentary Library notes the figures on average debt aren’t directly comparable because vocational education and training (VET) loans were removed from the figures in 2019-20.

Because of this, the total amount of outstanding student HELP debt fell to $66.38 billion from $66.64 billion in the year ending June 2019.

The data is collected by the Australian Taxation Office, which collects the debt based on taxable income. The thresholdfor repaying debt in 2019-20 was $45,881, with the repayment percentage of income rising as taxable income rises.

More than $159 million has been written off since the scheme started in 2005.

The group that owes the biggest total amount ($37 billion) is, perhaps not surprisingly, aged 20 – 29, but 30,000 debtors aged over 70 years owe a combined $353 million.

From 2005 to 2019-20, 1.9 million people repaid their debt in full while 1.7 million have made no repayment. Nearly 2.8 million have made a compulsory payment.

The largest group of debtors – 841,645 – owed less than $10,001 and the next largest group of 544,486 owed between $20,000 and $30,000.

There was much talk of a $100,000 degree when the first student debt scheme began in 1989 and there are around 24,544 people who now have a debt of $100,000 or more.

November 2020