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Why my HECS debt and millions of others should be wiped

OPINION: HECS was provided to students as the “solution” to making university free. The reality is we'll be stuck paying it off for decades to come.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing in November 2021, and now, after getting a job and paying thousands of dollars toward my student debt, I am still behind in my HECS repayment journey.

I considered myself an educated student, but this was something I was poorly educated on during my time at school.

HECS was provided to students as the “solution” to making university free. It wasn’t until completing my first semester that I saw my HECS debt number and was taken aback.

As students, we were all reassured: “Once you are in the workforce, HECS will be easy to pay off as you go”, rather than the reality that we would be stuck paying off HECS for decades to come.

HECS story illustrated with a picture of the writer on her graduation day, in a cap and gown, holding her degree.
HECS debt has made Abbey's degree feel like a huge financial burden. (Source: Supplied)

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About half of all high school graduates will go on to university, so I’m not the only one struggling with this.


Unless you win the lotto, or maybe come from a wealthy family, it feels impossible for me, or the other young Aussies I speak with, to escape that horror that is the student debt looming over our heads.

Some of my peers have just stopped paying it. But I want to clear this debt.

I spent thousands of dollars last year with the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) option, which meant a large chunk of my wage vanished fortnightly. But when I checked my balance again after the massive indexation increase, I owed $800 more than last year. I paid thousands to merely tread water.

There might be “no interest” on these loans, but they grow every year (indexed in line with inflation) and there’s no other path to take than to cop it.

I am part of a generation who is told it should be ‘easy’ to buy a house compared to 20 years ago, but I think the older generation needs to wake up and understand the reality we are now facing. Student loans are stopping us from being considered for a home loan.


Not only that, but the honour I felt going to university, and the amazing time I had during my three years, now just feels like a financial burden.

I can’t even count how many people who tell me they are never using their degrees, that they were pressured by family to go to uni and dropped out after two years with a lingering debt, or can’t even get a job in their field after getting a degree because they simply ‘don’t have enough experience’ for an ‘entry-level’ position.

HECS debt story illustrated with picture of author, a blonde woman looking over her shoulder.
HECS debt is holding back young Aussies, like Abbey, who paid off thousands and still ended up owing $800 more. (Source: Supplied)

But there is hope. I felt it when I saw more than 230,000 signatures on the petition started by independent MP Dr Monique Ryan to make our HECS debts easier to pay off, or seeing the chorus of voices speaking up about changing indexation. Better yet, calls to wipe the debt.

Australia was once proud of offering free university and making education accessible for as many people who wanted to pursue it.

Now, as a post-graduate, I am sad to say my degree feels like a ball and chain tied to my ankle - not something to be proud of.