Ten students owe $2.9 million in loans
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New Zealand's top student-loan debtors could have paid for five dentists' training each and still had cash left over - if they were still in the country.
Instead, most of those with New Zealand's biggest student-loan debts are living overseas, while owing the taxpayer a collective $2.9 million.
Inland Revenue will not say whether the top 10 debtors are paying off their loans, but revealed they are all males aged over 28 years and each has a loan balance of more than $290,000.
And this debt is ballooning, with figures obtained under the Official Information Act showing that in 2007 the top 10 balances were between $210,000 and $220,000 each, an amount that has increased each year.
If the debtors moved back to New Zealand and began paying back their loans at the minimum repayment rate of 12 per cent, it would take around 57 years on today's average wage. If they are still alive, they would all be more than 85 years old.
The debt owed by one of these former students would pay the course fees for a bachelor of dental surgery at Otago University, about $57,700, more than five times. It would cover twice the $123,806 training cost for a pilot at Massey University's School of Aviation.
The documents also reveal that 280 people have student loans dating back almost two decades, since the scheme began in 1992.
Inland Revenue would not say what courses the men studied, whether the loans were being paid back, or what their occupations were now. When asked what was being done to chase these specific debts, an IRD spokesman said collections activity was targeted at borrowers who were in default.
Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said the Government planned to track down as many overseas borrowers as possible. A programme targeting 1000 Australian- based borrowers, launched in 2010, has now been widened to nab 57,000 borrowers over the next 2 1/2 years - mainly in Australia and Britain. Mr Dunne yesterday said it had already netted about $20m.
New Zealand University Students' Association president Pete Hodkinson said the situation was likely to worsen, with massive amounts of debt, higher university fees, a weak employment market, and too many students training for the same jobs.
Related story: How to make a profit from your student loan
- © Fairfax NZ News
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