When UTS masters student Phoebe Walker wrote to the Education Minister Jason Clare calling for HECS debt to be made fairer, she didn’t realise it would lead to a national policy change that would save university students billions of dollars.

With the signatures of all her fellow UTS physiotherapy students, her letter inspired teal independent Monique Ryan, the member for Kooyong, to set up a petition to change the unfair indexation of HECS debt.

Dr Ryan’s petition went viral, clocking up more than 20,000 signatures in half-a-day, and gaining the support of other teal MPs.

After collecting signatures from nearly 290,000 people, the petition led to the government’s announcement in Tuesday’s federal budget of a lower indexation cap on HECS debt.

HECs indexation has always been based on the consumer price index (CPI), which has shot up in line with the cost of living, rising by 7.1 per cent last year alone and leaving students with a much larger debt to pay back.

The government’s decision to calculate HECS indexation on what ever is lower – CPI or the wage price index, which last year was a much lower 3.2 per cent – and backdate it a year, meant an instant $3 billion saving for hard-hit students.


“My physiotherapy cohort and I sincerely thank everyone involved in making these changes happen,” Walker told Central News.

“These changes will not only assist over three million Australians in our financial futures, but they will also help encourage younger generations to complete a university education, which is fantastic.”

Main image by Jess O’Bryan.