I’ve been reading with interest the accounts of life with HECS debts on Music for Deckchairs post Own Goal, and I thought I’d add my thoughts to the mix. For me I think there are two considerations affecting how I think and feel about the HECS debt: how I got into the position of finding myself the proud owner of forty thousand dollars worth of Arts and Literature related higher education, and secondly whether I got value for money.
With regard to the former I can see that for a series of family, class, regional, and youthful reasons I was on a conveyor belt to University after I left high school. My family believed that someone who went to University would seldom find themselves unemployed and, from that, wouldn’t find themselves in circumstances involving benefits or public housing or remand or loan sharks or anything like that. My high school was particularly keen that some of its students go to University, since not that many did. It looked good to send bright students over the Great Dividing Range, and it looked even better if they came back as doctors or accountants or veterinarians.
It’s also fair to say that I contributed to the obviousness of University by being, for want of a better term, a classroom junkie. I loved the classroom, the comfortable solidity of master/apprentice relations combined with regular congratulatory feedback on how well I was doing. When the time came and I did my HSC and then went to University I was so hot for teacher I would’ve done anything they said. Which is pretty much what happened anyway: I went, a sweet professorial man (wearing a frilly shirt like Jon Pertwee) said I should do this, this, and this. So I did.
I followed those trajectories for the next four years and accrued my debt, which I doubled thanks to the financial supplement loans from Austudy. I don’t believe anyone would have dissuaded me from going to University but back then I couldn’t get a credit card so why would anyone allow me to accrue a debt than represented quite a few years worth of annual average earnings? I can’t think why. If some fortune teller had said I’d be paying this off for the rest of my working life I would have paid more attention.
And if when the fortune teller said I’d be paying this off for the rest of my working life they’d mentioned that everything I was told I was buying (into) would arrive, in due course, without having to pay for it, I might have paid a good deal more attention. If that wise and all knowing soul had told me that education happened in my head and not in the classroom and was, one hundred percent, not represented by the number of distinctions and high distinctions I might’ve pursued some other avenue. I might have done the public service exam, one of the last, and be, well, roughly where I am now.
If this fortune teller had told me all this I might not have believed them, I might have done everything I did anyway regardless of warnings. I’m that kind of guy. But I do think someone should have mentioned it. Nowadays, I’m in the lucky position that I get my fortune told for free.