Rethink your student loan while you still can

It’s all changing. Soon, it’s very likely that your student loan will no longer be the one that you signed up for at the start of your degree. Here are the proposed changes, in a nutshell:

1) When you finish studying and get a job, you’ll have to put 12% rather than 10% of your salary towards your loan.
2) You’ll probably not be rewarded for making voluntary repayments. At the moment, if you pay off more than you have to, you get a 10% bonus.

In New Zealand, we’re very lucky to be able to get loans for our study. What we have to accept, though, is that our country’s in a tough way financially and, well, something’s gotta give somewhere. While I believe that everyone, regardless of financial status, should have the right to go to uni, I’d rather that the government save a bit of money by tightening up our student loan rules than cutting money from something like healthcare or compulsory education. Going to uni is a wonderful, enlightening, empowering thing but in the short term it doesn’t keep us alive.

How you can help – both yourself and the rest of New Zealand – is by keeping your student loan as small as possible. This week, I’ve asked a number of recent graduates to rethink their own student loan decisions. While none of them could have paid their fees without a loan, all of them now admit that they could have easily taken steps to avoid having to take out huge loans for living expenses. What seemed like a good idea at the time is now draining their weekly salary enormously, stopping them from being able to go overseas due to the massive interest they’ll accrue on it, and stressing them out with a feeling of ‘I’ll never be able to pay this off!’

Some people NEED a loan for their living expenses. But do you? Here are three simple ways to minimise the amount you need to borrow to live:

1) Get a part-time job. It’ll keep you focussed, motivated and can provide you with priceless experience.
2) Move back home. Your ability to do that will depend on a lot of things, but pride shouldn’t be one of them.
3) Keep your expenses to a minimum. You are a student. You need to live like one. Budget down to the last cent. Trust me, it’ll make that first post-uni pay cheque so much sweeter.

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