I have a friend, I have more than one friend actually, but this friend in particular is in debt. Like many American coege graduates, he has student loans, and like many other American students, his loans cheated on him with Sallie Mae, but I’ll get back to that.
Paying for University
Most Australian universities offer Commonwealth supported places for students, subsidized study so that students pay only ‘student contributions’ (between $600 and $1600 per study unit), which is payable through the HECS-HELP loan scheme. HECS is a scheme with virtually no interest, and is only payable once the student is earning over $49,095 per year. Then, your payment is around 5-6% of your income per year, depending on your salary. Awesome, right? Additionally, foreign income (if you live/work overseas) doesn’t count towards the income threshold. My HECS debt sits around $30,000 – for a 5 year degree.
Paying for food/rent/etc
Most students I know, work around 20 hours each week whilst they’re studying, averaging $20 per hour – $400 per week before tax. If you can’t work, or choose not to, and you meet certain requirements, students can be eligible for Youth Allowance payments. This is a scheme to provide students with a small income on a fortnightly basis, with the amount varying between different circumstances. This is based on parents income (if you’re under 22), and most of the students I know receive $300-$400 per fortnight.
Now, back to the Americans. Most of the Americans I know have a minimum of $70,000 in debt. Debt that demands payment as soon as you finish graduating. These payments, aren’t based on income, and really don’t seem to be affordable in the slightest. So, graduates need to find jobs day 1 out of school, and work to make their $200-$800 monthly student loan repayments, whilst earning $8-$20 per hour.
For the Americans that know the Australian system, I feel there’s a lot of resentment, since we (as Australians) seem to have a freedom the Americans don’t. We have money whilst we’re studying (even if it’s not much), we have little real debt after graduating.
However, most Australian students live at home during university (saving on rent and food), we work from year 10 or so onward in part-time jobs, and we travel up to an hour to get to each university class. I spent my first two years of university at home, and the next two years in dorms and share-houses. Whilst we’re really fortunate to have great government support, and no student loans, we work for it, we live with our parents for it, and we pay $8 a day for parking for a 2 hour class.