Students worried they'll be forced to pay back university debt earlier than planned

PAYBACK TIME: Kyle Palmer, who graduated from Charles Sturt University in 2017 and now is a teacher in Orange, had to start paying back his HELP-HECS debt when he started working because he was above the $52,000 threshold.
PAYBACK TIME: Kyle Palmer, who graduated from Charles Sturt University in 2017 and now is a teacher in Orange, had to start paying back his HELP-HECS debt when he started working because he was above the $52,000 threshold.

On July 1, thousands of university students and graduates had to start paying up their debts sooner than what was expected and they could have to pay back even sooner if a bill passes the Senate. 

Now in the new financial year, anybody earning $52,000 or more a year will have to start paying off their student debts – referred to Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), which replaced Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) 

However, the federal government announced their intentions to lower the repayment threshold to $44,999 in the budget.

The bill allowing that change was meant to be passed by the Senate but has since been delayed until August. 

However, because the bill hasn’t passed before the start of the new financial year, the further reduction in the threshold will not apply until July 1, 2019. 

Bathurst resident Kyle Palmer, who graduated from Charles Sturt University in 2017 and now is a teacher in Orange, had to start paying back his HELP-HECS debt when he started working because he was above the $52,000 threshold.

“With HECS, I’m losing about $848 a fortnight,” he said.

“So those who are earning $45,000 will expect to be out of pocket a few hundred dollars a fortnight.

“However, I’m able to provide for myself and my family but if I was around the $45,000, the HECS being taken out would make a huge difference to being able to provide.”

While having a HELP-HECS debt may bring a big debt, it has provided many people with an opportunity to pursue further education without the need of paying up front.

Bathurst resident and University of NSW alumni Michelle Yeo said she isn’t fazed by the change in the HELP-HECS threshold. 

“Since I live in a rural area, the cost of living, renting and owning a house is significantly less, I don’t think I’ve felt the pain of paying back my HECS debt as much as people living in urban areas.” 

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