‘Education is a public good’: Greens’ new bill scraps indexation of student debt

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On Thursday, Deputy Leader of the Greens and Education Spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi announced a new bill to freeze all education and training loans.

The Education and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2022 (removing indexation and increasing minimum repayment income for education and training loans) will be presented by Faruqi. The bill hopes to remove the indexation of HELP loans from July 1, 2022, and raise the minimum repayment threshold to the median salary from July 1, 2023.

The Higher Education Loans Program (HELP) includes four types of loans. The Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) provides students with Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs), with HELP loans covering the student contribution portion of their fees. FEE-HELP provides loans to domestic students who pay the full fee. OS-HELP provides loans to students who register to study abroad as part of their Australian degree. SA-HELP offers student loans to pay off their SSAF loans.

Although the loans are interest-free, HELP debt is currently indexed to CPI inflation, with the indexation at 3.9%, the highest in at least a decade. CPI inflation is expected to rise to 7.8% by December of this year. The minimum repayment threshold for HELP debt in 2022-23 was $48,361, while the median salary was $51,389.

The bill comes amid rising costs of living and rising student debt from $25.5 billion to $68.7 billion as more people accessed higher education in the past decade.

Tuesday’s Labor budget also did very little to alleviate the immediate financial stress on students, including the failure to increase the availability or amount of social assistance benefitscurb rising energy pricesor center sound Housing agreement around public housing or tenants.

While student debt generally doesn’t impact the financial situation of domestic students during their studies, it has a more direct impact on recent graduates trying to pay their rent, pay their bills and fund other jobs. other living expenses up. “School debt impacts people’s ability to get loans, their mental health, their ability to save to buy a home or just afford to live a good life,” Faruqi said in a statement. Press release.

The bill is also part of a larger goal of free education in Australia – as is common in Europe – and the abolition of all student debt. “No one should be shackled with a debt sentence just to study. Higher education should be free. This bill is one of the first pieces of the puzzle to make that vision a reality,” she said. declared.

In an interview with Honi, Faruqi explained the need to reframe our understanding of higher education in the future. “Education is a public good,” Faruqi said.

“It’s really interesting that we quite easily accept that school is free for everyone, but we don’t accept that the same level of education at university is provided free of charge.”

Universities are more than service providers, and higher education extends beyond the classroom through extracurricular activities, activism, and rich conversations with new friends. Helping students from all walks of life to succeed in these spaces also means providing them with the financial aid and support structures they need.

Obtaining a higher degree is also becoming increasingly necessary for graduates entering the labor market, with half a million jobs created over the next five years. should require college degrees. In this context, universities will play an increasing role in preparing students for the labor market.

“Students are not customers and staff are not service providers, but that’s what I’ve seen happen over the past 20 years,” Faruqi said.

“So the vision of universities is…where students thrive, where students have the resources they need, not only to study, but also to engage in activism.

“With free education comes the support students need. So a guaranteed subsistence income. And we’ve been saying for a few years that it should be above the poverty line: $88 per day.

“The Greens would certainly like to see funding for students, which is determined by students, so that they can have an active political life while studying.”

Asked if she thought Labor or the crossbenchers would support the bill, Faruqi said it was the start.

“It’s absolutely critical that we get past the student debt freeze,” she said.

“I will be having these conversations with others over the next few [days].”

The bill is due to be introduced in November – time will tell if the Greens can muster the necessary support in the meantime.

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