Govt to increase student loan borrowing limit for medical students

The Government plans to increase how long some students can get loans for.

Students studying medicine are said to be struggling, after the former National Government introduced a seven-year borrowing limit in 2011, extending it by one year for some students in 2016. 

The Government now plans to increase the borrowing limit to 10 years for students studying medical courses and others studying dentistry, optometry or veterinary science, according to Education Minister Chris Hipkins.  

"If you're doing a long course we've extended the borrowing limit so you can borrow so that you can complete your course," Mr Hipkins told The AM Show on Monday. 

"What we know is that medical students, some dentistry students, and so on, were struggling to complete their courses within the defined period and that meant that they were delaying completing their study." 

"We want them to finish their study so that, in the case of med students, we can get them into out hospitals as quickly as we can."

The Medical Students' Association has been campaigning for these changes for years, and said it was disappointed when the Government's May budget didn't mention anything about it, RNZ reports

The group believes extending the borrowing limit to 10 years for medical students should be sufficient to get the majority of students through their degrees. 

"I think today many of our members will be breathing that sigh of relief knowing that they actually will be able to graduate, become the doctors that they've always wanted to be and actually go out there and be serving their communities," the Medical Students' Association's Ajda Arsan told RNZ. 

Mr Hipkins said a student loan debt is something the Government "is aiming to tackle". 

He said that's why the Government introduced the first year free policy at the start of the year, and plans to extend that out to three years over time, with the next free year planned to be added in 2020. 

The Government plans to make two years of university free by 2021, and three years free by 2024. The fees-free policy is expected to cost $340 million a year, and the increase to student support a further $270 million a year. 

Mr Hipkins said the Government "can definitely afford" the increase.