'Lifetime students' amass huge HECS debts

Many students are amassing huge debts by taking out student loans for successive degree courses, new research has found.

According to confidential Freedom of Information documents, which were obtained by The Australian, so-called "professional" students have accrued debts of between $264,677 and $175,805, while Australia's most expensive university student was revealed to have notched up a massive $384,957 debt.

Such figures have prompted criticism that some students are simply using the HECS system to compare student finances and stay in education with no intention of repaying taxpayers.

Indeed, education experts have called on the government to cap the size of university loans in light of the fact that some students have been at university for more than 15 years, the newspaper said.

"It's not the responsibility of taxpayers to underwrite the lifestyle of professional students who want to spend the bulk of their adult life swanning around university campus," commented Institute of Public Affairs' research fellow Tony Barry.

According to The Australian, about $4 billion in student loans have been "written off" since the scheme started in 1989.

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