A life time of debt Joe Hockey once rallied against

AS FILM evidence emerged of Treasurer Joe Hockey protesting fees in his university days on Tuesday, the Abbott government's changes to higher education were revealed as potentially hitting future students with a "lifetime of debt".

Videos of Mr Hockey in his younger days from Channel Nine was reported on Tuesday, showing the Treasurer-to-be protesting new university fees.

Telling reporters at the time a $250 administration fee he was urging the public to "support us in our campaign for free education", Mr Hockey's view of such fees seems to have changed.

His first budget, based on creating a "nation of lifters, not leaners" and ending "the age of entitlement", will lead to bigger students debts, staying around for longer, two key analyses showed.

The first, from the National Tertiary Education Union, reported that the total level of debt students would owe the government by 2020 would exceed the Commonwealth's own net debt in six years.

Union national president Jeannie Rea said the main factor in the "cost-shifting" would be deregulation of the fee market "driving up the level of outstanding student debt" and "real interest rates" on loan debts from 2016.

"Students will be lumped with exorbitant debts that will take decades to repay. This is on top of the additional $300,000 to $400,000 in income tax university graduates will pay over their lifetime," she said.

"As anyone with a mortgage will understand the higher your initial loan and the higher the interest payments the longer it takes to pay off."

A second analysis of the changes, from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, found many students wouldn't be able to pay that debt off until their 70th birthday.

That examination found the likely effects of uncapping fees would mean "more graduates will struggle to stay abreast of interest payments on their loans, let alone pay off the principal loan", the authors wrote on The Conversation website.

"Most universities will probably increase their fees on most of their courses by more than they lose from the Commonwealth," report authors wrote.

"Combined with the new repayment schedule and method of calculating interest, this would mean students overall and low-income earning graduates in particular experiencing higher levels of debt through HECS-HELP.

"In many cases the level of debt would be unpayable in the student's lifetime."

But, not being able to pay it off before they die may not be a major problem, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday ruling out chasing the debts once former students are dead.

After both Mr Hockey and Education Minister Christopher Pyne voiced support for chasing down students debts after death, Mr Abbott took to parliament to rule it out.

He said the government had "no plans" to do so, although the government does plan to chase debts (currently exempted) from former students who move overseas.


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