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Cracking the growing student loan debt dilemma:
A $300 million success story


Behavioural and Communications


Winner of the Supreme award at the 2016 NZ Research Association’s Effectiveness Awards, and blue trophy winner at ESOMAR’s 2017 global research effectiveness awards

With the Government seriously questioning the sustainability of New Zealand’s student loan scheme due to a growing debt problem with overseas-based borrowers, Inland Revenue asked Colmar Brunton (now Verian) to help them tackle the issue.

A multi-stage, multi-method research project (using both qualitative and quantitative methods) was carried out with student loan borrowers and key influencers (including parents and the wider community) to guide Inland Revenue’s strategic and tactical decisions.

Drawing heavily on recommendations from the research, including insights into how to engage with different borrower mindsets, Inland Revenue implemented a range of communication, operational, and legislative initiatives. The research and initiatives proved to be highly successful. Student loan borrowers have made more than $300 million in additional repayments as a result of the initiatives implemented. The Government’s ROI on these initiatives surpassed 2000% by mid-2016.

Judges’ citation: This submission illustrates the effective use of research and collaboration in helping to rectify what had become a fiscally-challenging and politically-charged situation. Faced with an increasing amount of unpaid student debt, and a growing concern over the prospects of its repayment, Inland Revenue worked closely with the Colmar Brunton team (now Verian), to gain a clear and actionable understanding of the mindset of borrowers, both here and overseas. A comprehensive multi-stage, multi-methodology research approach delivered insights into the motivations and barriers at play, whilst a very smart segmentation approach provided practical guidance for the development of ‘carrot and stick’ communications and legislative activities. To date, some $300million in additional student loan repayments are attributable to the resulting initiatives by IRD. The judges all agree that this entry represents behavioural change research and organisational collaboration and decision-making at its finest.”

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