Student debt affecting New Zealand health system

Medical students are being forced to rethink future jobs due to the pressures of student debt.

A recent University of Auckland study has found that medical students are carrying higher levels of student loan debt than ever before.

A medical degree will set students back a little over $15,000 a year alone, with many owing more than $90,000 when it comes time to graduate, the study found.

The study found this debt meant students were now choosing to enter careers that were highly paid over those with a high need.

President of the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association, Kieran Bunn, says it’s an “abysmal” state of affairs.

“These students have a unique set of skills, and come from a broad range of backgrounds.

“We risk wasting both their talent and the considerable prior investment in their education,” Bunn says.

National President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) Jonathan Gee is calling for a national conversation about student debt in light of the study.

“When graduates might be choosing to enter careers that are more highly paid over areas of high need, it shows how rising student debt creates real implications on society as a whole,” he says.

The findings follow a recent study by NZUSA which assessed the implications of student loan debt on a graduates’ future.

The association’s Income and Expenditure Report 2017 found that 78 per cent of students feel that their debt will have a significant impact on their ability to save for their retirement.

It also found that repayment times were increasing, with significant inequalities between repayment times for men and women, and Pakeha compared with Māori and Pasifika.

“We must also consider those who might be locked out from even considering a career in medicine due to high costs,” he says.

“Large student loan debt for qualifications such as medicine create a poverty of opportunity for many of our poorest families.”

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