HECS Rort and the Middle Class

James Falk-Woman mathApparently $6.2bn of the outstanding HECS (new name Higher Education Loan Program) debt is now deemed uncollectable, due to students earning overseas, not earning enough to trigger repayment, or dying before debt is totally repaid.

Andrew Norton at the Grattan Institute has worked hard to produce these figures.

This is no surprise to someone who has witnessed middle class housewives, out of the workforce, taking 3 year degrees in their fifties and then deferring fee payment. Since they will never work again, that money is gone.

Of course, these degrees are in Fine Arts or the Humanities, with a cost recovery ratio of about half (Grattan Report). Of course, the women in question drive Mercs or upmarket VWs, and are married to high-earning corporate types.

I have no figures to determine just how much this behaviour contributes to the bad debt problem. It is, however, a clear rort. A clear redistribution of income from hardworking types without tertiary degrees to people who can well afford to pay for their hobby-education.

Like “free” education instituted under Whitlam, this supposedly progressive policy structure just funnels other people’s cash to the education-committed middle class.

It’s wrong. It exploits poor people. Liberal and Labor social policy figures should speak against it, and now, when this report has raised an opportunity. They won’t. And it’s not even worth considering the possibility of the Greens saying something that actually does something for our low income earners.

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  1. Sandra Blackmore

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