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May 12, 2008 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Student attempts to auction her loan

A former Victoria University student has highlighted the difficulties of paying off a student loan by attempting to auction it off on website Trade Me.

Management at Trade Me sympathised with her cause, but pulled the auction last week because it violated the internet auction site’s terms and conditions.

The student, who has been using the pseudonym Kaiser Mort, wanted to sell her $39,850 loan as a “reverse scholarship”, the idea being that a generous donor would pay off her loan retrospectively – the reverse of a traditional scholarship.

Mort calculated on the IRD’s online calculator that her loan would take 20 years to pay off, based on her current salary, and realised she didn’t want to be middle-aged before starting to look for a house.

“I saw that you could buy a defibrillator on eBay and I thought ‘Wow, you really can sell anything online,’” Mort says. “Furthermore, I’m a big fan of cross-disciplinary experimentation so I was curious what would happen if I merged Trade Me and student loan debt.”

Mort spent five years getting her tertiary education – four at Otago doing an Honours degree in Film and Media, and one year at Victoria University completing a MA in scriptwriting. She received the living costs loan during most of her study because she was not eligible for a student allowance.

“Both my mother and her partner have been as supportive as they can be but there is no way they could afford university education and assist with living costs [for six children from two relationships]. The traditional ‘family unit’ is in the process of being radically reconstructed and our laws don’t reflect that.”

“What also gets my goat up is that you can ask for living costs and get them over the phone. You can get into debt over the phone. But if you want student allowance you have to fill out I don’t know how many forms,” she laments. “It’s like getting blood out of a stone.”

Mort says that she probably could have received a scholarship, but what she studies is not regarded highly in academia. “Furthermore, [it] sounds ridiculous, but I didn’t have the self confidence at the time to apply for one,” she says. “I always thought ‘There’d be someone better’. But every student deserves to be invested in.”

Trade Me’s Head of Business Mike O’Donnell says users cannot sell intangible services on Trade Me. “Our compliance team had to pull the auction because it violated our Terms and Conditions,” he says.

“Cool idea though. And if was trying to cope with the staggering costs of getting a tertiary education these days, I’d probably try it too.”

Needless to say, Mort is less than impressed. “What irritates me is that they pulled it the day before it was due to close. If they were going to pull it I wish they had pulled it at the beginning – I had so many watchers, who knows what might have happened,” she says. No bids had been placed by the time the listing was pulled from the site.

“By the way, one definition of tangible is ‘real, treated as fact’ – when did student loans become not real? I think we should get the IRD in on that one if that’s the case – don’t worry everyone, they don’t really exist,” she says.

She hasn’t given up, though. Mort says she has an idea to pay off other people’s loans, as well as her own. “But I can’t show all my cards at once, can I?”


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  1. Strypey says:

    You could set up a site like or invite retrospective scholarships…

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