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Bruce Chapman and Timothy Hicks

In 1989 the Australian government adopted the world’s first national income contingent student loan (ICL) system, then known as the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS). HECS constituted a radical economic policy reform, with the critical element being that it was the first national ICL. This chapter documents and analyses issues that are important to understanding the political and policy environment of this financing reform. A critical motivating factor for the chapter is that closely related versions of HECS have now been implemented in around eight other countries, and such systems look set to be adopted in several others very soon. Lessons from years ago in Australia are highly relevant to perceptions of political reform well beyond this experience.