Australia considers waiving students' debts

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Canberra : The Australian government is considering waiving debts of students who unknowingly took on loans, authorities said on Monday.

The federal Student Loans Ombudsman has received more than 5,000 complaints from former students of private colleges about substandard education or being ripped off, reports Xinhua news agency.

The complaints were linked to Vocational Educational Training (VET) FEE-HELP, a controversial scheme that was scrapped by the government early 2017.

Under the programme, students who took out a loan to study were granted almost unregulated access to government subsidies -- incentivzing colleges to enrol as many students as possible.

A majority of complainants to the Student Loans Ombudsman said they were unaware that they would incur a debt when they signed up for a private college course.

Gerard Brody, chief executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre, welcomed any initiative that would help students who had been conned into taking out the loans.

VET FEE-HELP has been replaced by VET Student Loans which caps loans based on the cost of the course.

The total amount of the debts that would be wiped under the government proposal is unknown but local media reported that the Commonwealth Actuary believed over A$1 billion ($730 million) in loans would never be repaid.