After years of being exempt, expats will have to start paying back their uni debts.

You can run, but you can’t hide.

Once upon a time, i.e. right now, Australians moving overseas after graduation were exempt from repaying their higher education loans.

For reasons that still aren’t entirely clear to me, since the HECS/HELP system was introduced in 1989, expats have been free from the crippling fear of crushing debt that comes hand in hand with a university education in this county.

From 2017 this will no longer be the case, however, as the Senate yesterday voted to close the loophole.

Moving overseas is no longer a sure fire way to put off paying your HECS debt.

The Federal Government argues that the changes will save more than $150 million in the next decade, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the university sector.

“No government has ever tackled this obviously unfair situation — it’s been in the too-hard basket,” then-education minister Christopher Pyne said in a statement when introducing the measure in May.

“Our plan will enforce the same HECS repayment obligations on Australians living overseas that apply to those who remain on our shores.

“There is no good reason why someone working as a banker in London or New York and earning over the threshold shouldn’t pay back what they owe Australia.”

Labor has supported the legislation, but the Greens don’t believe it should be applied retrospectively, arguing that it is unfair to ask people already living and working overseas to start paying retrospectively.

A point their spokesperson on the issue Robert Simms argued in the Senate yesterday:

Video via APH

According to a 2013 study by researchers at the Australian National University, the HECS “black hole” has deprived the country of some $450 million over the past 26 years,

Around 46,000 people are expected to be effected by the change, but only if they meet the same income threshold that applies in Australia, which is currently set at $54,126 a year.

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