Mike Hosking: Arresting people over student debt a necessary last resort

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Jan 2020, 5:06PM
(Photo / File)

Mike Hosking: Arresting people over student debt a necessary last resort

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Jan 2020, 5:06PM

This business of the student debt from last week - getting arrested at the border gets an easy headline.

I assume, if I’d checked on social media, which of course I haven’t, there would have been  some kind of upset or backlash over it.

But here is the very simple lesson in life, a lesson ironically we are working through at home at the moment with students of our own off to uni.

Study costs a lot of money, and for most it involves a level of debt. And even if you borrow every cent to study, you still have only borrowed a small fraction of the actual cost of getting that degree.

It’s about 75/25, as in 75 per cent of the total cost is borne by the tax payer, as a student you need to find 25 per cent.

And you can argue the student loan scheme is a generous mechanism that has allowed anyone who is truly dedicated to find their way to the degree of their choice. The down side of the scheme is it never really got taken seriously in the early days.

In other words, given you were dealing with 18 to 20-year-olds, the ability to borrow with no real questions asked and worry about it another day, inevitably led to them never really worrying about it at all. Hence we have a $3 billion+ bill being raked up on the government books.

They count it as income, by the way, which I have always thought is dodgy, given they don’t actually have the money, and dare I suggest, as each day passes, the chances of an overdue debt being paid gets longer and longer.

The sort of people getting arrested at the border didn’t rack up the debt last week, and don’t owe $34.50. One of the headline grabbers owed six figure, and that sum grows the longer it remains unpaid.

The reason that they’re getting arrested is because of the last government, who did what the previous government should have but didn’t. Take the debt seriously, in other words, expect the people who borrowed and got educated and buggered off to actually be held to account.

The Clark government literally did nothing about it, apart from watch it grow and grow and grow. National put an amnesty in place, told them to pay up or else and magically huge sums emerged. They did deals with governments like Australia who data shared, which meant more money flowed in.

As last resort, they said if you don’t pay and you are off shore, we will arrest you at the border. Astonishingly, there are those that seemingly didn’t believe that, and hence, they’ve been nabbed and got the headlines.

You see, education is multi-faceted. It’s not just about uni or tech. It’s about life and part of life is the responsibility of being a grown up and owning your obligations and actions. The fact a government needs to put handcuffs on you to get you to live up to what you said you would do, is a tragic indictment on those who were happy to take us for a ride, and dumb enough to think they could get away with it.