Aims: To quantify the current level of actual student loan debt in New Zealand (NZ) medical students at the time of graduation, and to investigate how debt burden relates to gender and ethnicity.
Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to all graduating students from The University of Auckland's School of Medicine in November 2006. This study looked specifically at debt attributable to a New Zealand Government Student Loan (NZGSL).
Results: The response rate was 88%. Eighty-seven percent of NZ residents in the survey had a NZGSL. Nearly three-quarters of all students (73%) reported a total NZGSL of over $45,000, with one-third reporting a total greater than $75,000. Overall, males appeared to have different borrowing behaviours than their female counterparts, as reflected in their higher loan totals. Females were also more likely to report that they had no student loan, despite comparable access to parental financial support, part-time work, and scholarships. The reported loan sizes of Maori and Pacific Island students did not differ significantly from those of other ethnicities. Only 11% of study respondents reported that the burden of a student loan had a significant impact on future career decisions.
Conclusions: For the majority of Auckland medical graduates, student debt is significant and continues to be a burdensome issue. There appear to be differences in the borrowing behaviours of males and females in the medical school programme, while different ethnicities have similar debt burdens.